Survivor stories

Afshan, Pakistan

At the age of 8, Afshan was attacked because one of her older sisters refused a marriage proposal from a local villager named Arshad. Afshan’s family had received a number of threats,but no one could have foreseen the extent to which Arshad was willing to go to harm the family. On the evening of April 3rd, when Afshan and her family were outside on the veranda having dinner, Arshad and 2 friends arrived at the house and threw acid at the entire family.

Afshan and her mother were the most severely burned. For the next hour, as the family desperately tried to ease their pain by splashing cold water on the burned skin, they tried to organise a way to reach Nishtar Hospital, Multan. Despite the efforts of the doctors at Nishtar, Afshan’s mother’s burns proved fatal and she died shortly after the attack due to the severity of the burns she sustained.

This attack left Afshan badly burned and without her mother. A former patient of Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan (ASF-P) informed Afshan’s family about the organisation and Afshan soon sought help at ASF-P’s centre in Islamabad with her elder sister Zakia serving as her attendant.

When Afshan arrived at the centre, she had very frequent episodes of hysterical crying followed by periods of complete withdrawal. She would repeatedly ask for her mother, but she has now accepted that her mother has passed away. She is told by her sister that their mother is ‘in a better place now and Afshan should pray for her’. Afshan finds solace in looking at a photograph of her mother cradling little Afshan in her arms.

Although Afshan has not undergone any surgery since the attack, she has had three medical assessments at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), and one medical evaluation at the Al-Shifa Eye Trust. The doctors believe that she will be ready for surgery in three months and that is what she is currently being prepared for. Meanwhile, Afshan is being encouraged to perform certain therapeutic exercises and the Head Nurse changes her bandages twice a day.

Afshan has been fighting for recovery and thankfully she has not forgotten how to laugh. According to her teachers, Afshan is an eager, fast learner and has shown great aptitude for language and numbers. Afshan prefers for her actions to speak louder than words, and it is clear that she is keen to learn and continue to develop her love for reading and writing. Speaking about the help ASF-P was able to provide, Afshan’s sister Zakia said, ‘We are very lucky to have found a place like ASF-P. We thank God everyday. The people here have been very good to us.’

Afshan has been provided with a comfortable environment at the Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Unit (NCRU) of ASF-P. Other survivors currently in treatment at the NCRU make a special effort to keep her busy and engage her in games and other activities that may be carried out within the premises.

ASF-P encourages the youth of Pakistan to volunteer and lend their services to the organisation, and these volunteers understand that their enthusiastic involvement is integral to the success of the overall rehabilitation process. ASF-P also actively involves its patients in fundraising events. Afshan and her fellow patients are currently working on making hand crafts which will be displayed at an exhibition in a nearby art gallery later this month.

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