An Introduction to the Abdul Sattar Foundation


Abdul Sattar Edhi

2000 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among Peoples

In recognition of his life-long unselfish work for the very poorest and for peace; for his untiring efforts finding those who need care and taking care of those that nobody else cares for.

As Chairman of the Edhi International Foundation, I feel immense pleasure and honour to receive the prestigious award for “Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood” from the “International Balzan Foundation”.
I also wish to congratulate the other four recipients of international repute receiving the “Humanistic and Scientific Balzan Prizes, 2000” as well as the 67 other international scientists to whom the Balzan Foundation has awarded over 25 million Swiss Francs for their contribution in a variety of multi-disciplinary fields such as the Arts, History, Epidemiology etc. over the last two decades.
The presence of a Pakistani on this internationally recognized forum shows that the Balzan prize is conferred irrespective of national boundaries. This will further enhance and foster on a global level the feeling of humanitarianism and brotherhood among various nations regardless of religion, race and creed.
In Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is also the history of a constantly evolving enterprise, perseverance and dedication. There are many ways in which the benefits of the missionary work of the Edhi Foundation can be highlighted. Firstly, the Edhi Foundation is the largest and most highly organized social welfare system in Pakistan. Secondly, it is a unique example of what ordinary people can achieve through sincerity of purpose, dedication and perseverance. Thirdly, the Edhi Foundation embodies the spirit of self-help, especially in a society where the notion of self-reliance has not taken root. Fourthly, by focusing on alleviation of human sufferings, the Edhi Foundation has broken religious, geographical and racial barriers, thus fostering the notion of welfare for all mankind. The broad ideological base provided by these aspects of the Foundation’s work has helped to develop an exemplary social welfare institution within third-world nations.


The Edhi Foundation is the largest Non-Governmental Organization in Pakistan providing services to various destitute groups and persons in need. The following provides a brief overview of its “from Cradle to Grave” services and projects:


The Edhi Foundation has raised the largest single fleet of Ambulances in the country with an unparalleled record of quick response for the victims of any disaster. Its nation-wide network, equipped with the latest communication system, now covers the remotest areas of Pakistan. A fleet of over four hundred ambulances, field mobile units and rescue units, of which this network is comprised, are maintained in a state of readiness to meet any emergency in the shortest possible time anywhere in Pakistan.

Edhi Air Ambulance consists of one helicopter and two fixed-wing crafts through which the following goals are being achieved:

a) Evacuation of serious casualties from the sites of accidents, riots and calamity affected areas.
b) Inter-hospital transfer of patients requiring specialist treatment and immediate attention.
c) Quick transportation of blood and vital human organs.
d) Search and rescue of stranded people in deserts, mountains, floods and coastal areas.
e) Air-dropping of food supplies for stranded people on ships, and in areas affected by wars and calamities.


The Welfare Centres of the Foundation are located in all the big cities and towns of Pakistan. The prime function of these centres is to extend all services of the Foundation to needy persons on their doorsteps. A network of more than 200 Welfare Centres act as “Service Centres” for the need of the suffering masses. They are constantly engaged in multifarious activities directly or indirectly benefiting the local community, working round the clock.


Edhi Home, also called “Apna Ghar” (Our Home), is a home for the mentally ill destitute, for orphans and runaways. There are 13 such homes in the country, of which seven are located in Karachi. About six thousand persons live in Edhi Homes. A destitute or homeless becomes a member of Edhi’s family once he enters the premises. All boarding, lodging, clothing and logistic arrangements are entirely free. In the event of a person dying within these homes, the burial arrangements are made by the Foundation in accordance with the religious rites of the denomination of the deceased (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or any other religion).

In Edhi Homes, residents are encouraged and trained to look after their personal needs themselves. This inculcates in them the spirit of self-help, and keeps them engaged in beneficial activities. Children and adults are encouraged to take basic education and train themselves in “Sheltered Workshops”.


Because of social problems, a large number of children leave their homes or get separated from their families during emergencies. Similarly, mentally handicapped people who cannot get back to their homes, wander around the streets. The Edhi Foundation either uses its own wireless network, state radio and TV Channels or arranges local announcements, advertisements in the press and thereby manages to return thousands of such people to their homes. Similarly, unidentified corpses are kept in refrigerated mortuaries while all efforts are made to identify the next of kin. This service is also available to Pakistanis living abroad and is being coordinated through Pakistani embassies or offices of the Foundation abroad.


At most Edhi Centres, “Jhoolas” (baby cradles) are installed where unwanted infants can be left. These abandoned babies are then taken into custody and given shelter in Edhi Homes. Such infants are thereafter given into the care of suitable deserving families not having children of their own, for the purpose of adoption. Mrs. Bilquis Edhi, the head of this service, keeps all documentation confidential in order to save the child from facing social problems, afterwards.


Under this project, Edhi Emergency Centres are working to cover a sizeable population on all highways and major link-roads of Pakistan in a properly phased fashion. The existing centres provide first aid to accident victims and arrange for their speedy transfer to the nearby hospitals. Moreover, these centres are being used for providing primary health care facilities in rural and semi-urban areas. These provide ambulance facilities for vaccinating newborn babies and children against diseases, and other welfare services. The dispensary and mobile dispensary at each centre cater for medical assistance to approximately two hundred and fifty patients daily.


Voluntary contributions in kind, which include clothing, edibles, medicines and dry rations, are received through the Edhi Centres network. Through voluntary contributions from Pakistan and abroad, Warehouses are established in big cities like Karachi, Islamabad and Multan. These Warehouses are kept ready round the clock with provision of tents, dry rations, bedding, blankets, baby milk powder, utensils, etc., to move into action immediately in times of emergencies. These Warehouses deliver items to refugee camps, at the site of any natural calamity, riots, fires and accidents etc. Through these Warehouses regular supplies have been provided to refugees from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Bosnia and countries like Somalia, Kuwait, Bangladesh and flood-affected areas in Pakistan etc.


Having developed a nation-wide network of ground ambulances supported by an air ambulance service, the Edhi Foundation has set up a separate establishment to extend its services to cover coastal areas as well.
Edhi marine services and “Coastal Life Guards” cater for the following:
1. Recovering bodies of drowned people through properly trained divers.
2. Air-dropping of food to ships in distress.
3. Establishment of watch towers with provision of life jackets and inflatable tubes.
4. Rescue services in rivers, lakes and dams around the country.
5. Advanced warning signals for tourists in coastal areas.


Provision of blood in order to save human lives remains an essential element of emergency services. In major accidents, natural calamities and bomb blasts, etc. blood is supplied to the needy on an emergency basis.

All welfare centres of major cities in Pakistan regularly keep an updated list of donors of all blood groups and conduct campaigns for enlisting more donors for collection of blood. Blood is pooled in hospitals from the volunteer donors and is provided free of cost in cases of heart surgeries and other major operations to poor patients.


During 1980, realizing the needs of poor cancer patients in the city who were pouring in from up-country, the Foundation developed a separate project for the establishment of a cancer hostel. This Centre acts as an extension bay of the Radiotherapy and Oncology Department of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi and provides terminal care and treatment to poor cancer patients of both sexes of all ages with indoor and outdoor facilities. The radiotherapy and diagnostic oncology is taken care by the experts of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, while other remaining medical facilities are provided within the Cancer Hostel.


Edhi Homes were originally meant to provide services to the distressed and ailing destitute. Soon, however, animals who were cruelly treated by their owners and had become lame or crippled or badly wounded started ending up in Edhi Centres. These also include missing animals and unwanted house pets, which have no other place to go except Edhi shelters. In view of the increasing number of such animals, the Edhi Foundation established a separate treatment unit, which has now grown into a small zoo. Veterinary doctors look after these animals along with other volunteer staff at Super Highway, Karachi.


The Edhi Foundation has the largest network for the burial of unclaimed and heir-less corpses in Pakistan. Separate graveyards are established in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and New York. Metropolitan Corporations of all big cities in Pakistan like Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi have made annual contracts with the Edhi Foundation for the burial of unidentified corpses from drowning, homicides, and accidents. Coffin cloth and coffin boxes are provided free of cost to those families who cannot afford or manage burial rites themselves. Non-Muslims are provided services according to their own religious rites with the assistance of a Church or local temple.

In addition to the above, large air-conditioned, refrigerated mortuaries have been established in Karachi to keep unidentified bodies for a couple of days, and perform burial rites if the next of kin is not traceable.

Edhi graveyard services also provide facilities for burial and transportation of the dead from overseas.


Edhi Emergency Posts have been established at National and Provincial Capitals including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Multan. The aims of these posts are to:

a) Reach the site of an emergency within minutes.
b) Launch mass campaign against social evils like Narcotics, Aids and awareness for Diarrhoea, Immunization and Family Planning Programmes etc.
c) Provide routine emergency cover at public gatherings and processions.
d) Act as a focal point for civilian defence in time of need.
e) Provide guidance to passers-by in locating their required address.
f) Assist illiterate people for filling in different forms pertaining to Banking and Identity Cards etc. and help them in letter writing.
g) Organize local volunteers in social welfare activities.
h) Extend other services of the Edhi Foundation on doorsteps of needy families.

The Following services besides legal aid are provided by the Edhi Foundation to prisoners in different jails and remand homes:
1) Food supplies (Borstal and Central Jails).
2) Medical Facilities (Karachi Central Jail).
3) Gifts (on national events) on a yearly basis.
4) Distribution of books and stationery.
5) Recreation (Sports, TV, etc.).
6) Provision of items of daily use like wall clocks, articles of clothing and blankets etc.
7) Ambulance services.
8) Securities and bonds for release of prisoners involved in minor crimes.


Edhi Public Kitchens “Lunger” have been established in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. The aim of this project is to discourage professional beggary. Through this project meals are served on a daily basis in densely populated poor areas. Anybody who, as a result of poverty, unemployment or other social factors is going without food may take advantage of a free meal, once daily. People are expected not to provide alms at traffic signals but to redirect professional beggars for food to such “Lunger” soup kitchens.


The aim of this project is to help people belonging to the lowest socio-economic strata, including widows, senior citizens and disabled people, to supplement their income through small, income-generating schemes. The first phase of this plan has successfully been implemented in rural areas of Punjab in which 10,000 poultry units were provided free of cost for the establishment of domestic poultry farms. Those who were successful in this self-generating scheme were provided with cows, free of cost as an additional incentive.


The work of the Edhi Foundation has extended beyond Pakistan. Currently, branches of the Edhi International Foundation are providing regular services in New York, Ontario, Dacca, Tokyo, Sydney, London and Dubai, while preliminary work for establishing branches in Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Russia has been completed.
The activities of these Community Centres include burial of the dead, financial and moral support to needy people visiting foreign countries for medical treatment, assistance in restoring lost and runaway children to their families, co-ordination and distribution of relief aid outside Pakistan, and drug abuse rehabilitation services.


The Edhi Foundation has been providing services to the refugees of different countries forced to take shelter in Pakistan. Refugees belonging to the following countries are among the beneficiaries:

1) Afghanistan
2) Kashmir
3) Bosnia
4) Iraq
5) Burma
6) Nepal
7) Bangladesh
8) Somalia
9) Uganda.

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