This Kashmir-born disaster medical specialist is supporting world

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Almost a decade back, when a Kashmir-born philanthropist slept amidst thousands of dead bodies during the Tsunami rescue operations in Indonesia in 2004, his resolve to make the world a better place strengthened further.

Today, having served disaster-struck people in over 120 countries from varied faiths and beliefs, Dr Sohail Nasti often reiterates that ‘humanity is the ultimate religion’. CEO of Mother Helpage Worldwide, recently titled as world’s first organisation with a proper set-up of a disaster response wing with air and sea rescue units, Dr Nasti has been working for past two decades to support world through humanitarian initiatives.

How a doctor-turned-rescue pilot fought nature’s fury to help needy

“I find this role more satisfying and challenging,” says the doctor-turned rescue pilot , who completed his MBBS from Srinagar and then went on to become a renowned rheumatologist in Chicago, after completing higher studies from the U.S.A, United Kingdom, Germany, Czech republic and India. Demonstrating the courage to walk away from a well-established career, Dr Nasti opted to become a disaster medical specialist and founded Mother Helpage in Anantnag, Kashmir, after his mother’s demise in 1994.

Led by Dr Nasti, Mother Helpage Worldwide has organised relief work for victims in some of the worst natural disasters in the past two decades – In 2004, when Tsunami had stuck people in Sri Lanka and Indonesia , In 2005 when massive earthquake had hit Kashmir, and in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis had hit Mynamar. The down-to-earth Samaritan says that he wants to keep putting concerted efforts so that the youth get motivated to help those in need. “I want to work hard to leave a legacy before I leave this world. I would love to be a role model to millions of youth for bringing a positive change in the world,” he confides.

Dr Nasti has often paid the cost of braving nature’s fury to reach out to the disaster victims. Stressing that disasters are natural disasters are ‘great equalisers’, he shares, “I had a narrow escape in a few disasters. Apart from having to stay away from my family for long, I have even suffered life threatening infections in some disasters.” But then, the content that he derives by dedicating himself for the cause surpasses fear and apprehensions, he adds.

Presently, his organisation provides services in over 10 countries and boasts of strong fleet of rescue helicopters, qualified pilots, doctors, skilled sea rescue crew and other professionals with the latest machinery. Talking about the operational challenges that the organisation faces while organising relief and rescue operations, Dr Nasti stresses, “We always go according to the law of the land we operate in. So there are no operational challenges in that regard. However, at times carrying relief and rescue operations in bad weather and chaos often becomes a daunting task.”

His first love is still Kashmir

Hurt to see the ‘instability’ in the Kashmir valley, Dr Nasti has been one of the major donors for various developmental projects in the state.

Interestingly, his journey as a humanitarian had a humble start in his homeland when he had organised small mobile medical camps with his friends in valley’s villages to serve people deprived of medical aid due to turmoil in the area.

Through his charity organisation, Dr Nasti even donated a state-of-art intensive care unit to the bone and joints hospital, Srinagar which he has dedicated to his late mother. Elaborating about other projects in the valley, Dr Nasti highlights, “In Kashmir, we conduct a few projects – Emergency Relief, Safe water, Orphan sponsorship, Women empowerment, health, and short term food relief like Ramadan and Qurbani.”

However, he quickly points out that he plans to do a lot more in future here. “We want to establish a network of critical care ambulances, establish training centres for women empowerment, introduce some health initiatives in the state for reducing child and maternal mortality, work for the provision of safe water, and establishment of institutions to support the economy of the state,” confesses the disaster medical specialist.

In view of the fact that the September floods last year exposed the underpreparedness of the state machinery in terms of disaster management, Dr Nasti had recently offered the state government to train local police officers in this regard. But the offer was turned down. Pointing out the loopholes in terms of approach followed for disaster management in JAmmu and Kashmir, Dr Nasti shares, “The government needs to have a policy of initiating programmes for the community development post disasters, which is not the case here. Tools for the economic stability need to be identified and applied. Even our state police needs to be trained and equipped with the latest technology in regards to disaster preparedness and that would be the only way out to face challenges like September floods.”

The humanitarian is currently associated with United Nations for various development programmes across the world. Consulted by large number of countries across globe on economic sustainability programmes, Dr Nasti dreams of bringing about development and economic stability in his homeland too. –DNA

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