dr. saleema rahman refugee doctor


This Afghan Refugee Doctor Is Breaking Barriers To Save Lives of Coronavirus Patients in Pakistan

3 min


Bordered on the West and the North of Pakistan, Afghanistan remains a country till date which has seen so many things in a single century, from the era of modernization when Burqa was optional to the phase where the locals were forced to flee their native land and move to Pakistan to escape from the bloodshed amidst the open-ended war and settle in the heart of the then N.W.F.P’s (now KPK) Peshawar; commonly referred to as ‘The city of flowers’.

The relations between these two countries remained savory at times and highly tense most of the time but despite that, the commons from both sides of the border share immense love and always step up to come foremost whenever they see stress on either side of the border.

Such is an individual today that we talk about — Dr. Saleema Rehman, a noblewoman of Afghan lineage who is breaking barriers to heal Pakistan’s poor during the global pandemic.

Dr. Saleema Rehman, an Afghan refugee doctor is working tirelessly to save lives of many in Pakistan

After the inevitable rounds that the Novel Virus COVID-19 made around the West, it was Pakistan’s turn now to face its wrath. With the deficit of essential medical supplies and manpower in the field of medicine, Saleema came in true form with honor to the oath that she took before coming into practice as a doctor and by ignoring all the risky factors that could’ve led to her death, she serves in the Holy Family hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Saleema (centre) with supervisor Humaira Bilgis and a patient at Holy Family Hospital.
Saleema (centre) with supervisor Humaira Bilgis and a patient at Holy Family Hospital. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

Saleema’s father, Abdul Rehman, fled Afghanistan at the age of 13 in hopes of more sustained and prosperous life at the other side of the border and settled in the Northwest of Pakistan and did not only leave any stone unturned to provide his daughter all the basic amenities of life and ladder to climb the steps of success but did also remain an advocate for the education of girls. It was after dawn when he’d go out and sell bananas to make a living for his family and when that didn’t seem enough, he stared designing carpets too after dusk.

Ultimately, after years of nurture, a highly-prized scholarship awarded by Pakistan inaugurated the gateways to Saleema’s medicinal career.

Saleema takes a short tea break outside the hospital with her father, Abdul Rehman.
Saleema takes a short tea break outside the hospital with her father, Abdul Rehman. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

According to information available on the UNHCR website, she works as a gynecologist and delivers about 5 babies a day in Rawalpindi’s Holy Family Hospital and serves about 40 women daily.

Saleema manages to get some extra hours done as well as her job requirement sometimes exceeds the hours given in the criterion and without a second thought she is always determined to get the extra hours done and serve the patients as long as she can at the cost of her relaxation and comfort.

“I have a duty to help women,” she says, warmly. “I feel so lucky. In my community many girls do not get this opportunity. I think it is in my destiny.”

“If the Pakistan government allows us Afghan refugees to practice here, we can be very helpful to our community, and I can work for the Pakistanis as well.”

If Saleema succeeds, she hopes to inspire other refugee girls.

“Whenever I go home, women come to me and say they feel very proud. I am so happy that maybe their ideas will change and they will send their daughters to school. I want them to get an education. This will make a difference to generations.”

UNHCR paid tribute to the refugee doctor, serving humanity in the hour of utmost need.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees took to Twitter to appreciate Dr. Saleema Rehman for her services during a time of global health crisis. In its tweet, the UNHCR Representation for EU Affairs said:

Applauding the 28-year-old refugee doctor, Atif Mashal, President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Representative and Ambassador to Pakistan, said:

Pakistan happens to be amongst the worst hit countries in South Asia from the Novel virus COVID-19 but it is people like her that always come forward regardless of any discrimination and help the neediest.

It is for people like Saleema on either sides of the border that we have this bond of love and purity remaining despite all the bloodhshed and violence that’s happening since decades.

We wish all the best to Saleema and all the medical personnel working tiredlessly throughout the globe to defeat thsis deadly virus.

Stasu Raaye