August 30, 2014

Unsung Heroes

Dear Friends, 
Perhaps many of you may not yet have heard of my publication, UNSUNG HEROES: An Island Health Worker's Journey. This is a book, depicting in story form, the heroic efforts of the health workers of Maldives to bring the present state of health to our Maldivian nation to being over the past several decades. For our youth particularly this will be a good read to recount the past efforts of our country's health workforce of years gone by, the fruits of which they now enjoy. 

This is to let you know that for the next three days, you have the opportunity to download the kindle version of this from Amazon for FREE. The link is:

Happy reading.  

Abdul Sattar

August 13, 2014


In a culture of blame and suspicion there is always the need to find a scapegoat. But that doesn't solve the problem but only prolongs the issue. 

Political governance is no exception to this. While we all know that problem solving is about finding the causes behind the concern which are always many, and addressing these systematically, to pinpoint one and taking that out is only too simplistic. It is merely like giving aspirin for the pain from an affliction that is much deeper which cannot really go away without taking a more holistic approach. 

Just like that pain, our health sector's woes cannot be wished away by the removal of just one deemed obstacle. It gets even more complicated and less effective when such decisions are politically motivated. The social pain then gets to be mixed up with system's pain. We are happy we have taken action, but the problem lies unsolved until the public uproar behooves another political move.

The removal of Minister Shakeela is not a solution to the woes of the health sector. These lie much deeper. From the breakdown of they operational system that was decimated in the past without any consideration of the pains taken to build it over decades, the removal of the backbone of our workforce that were the community health workers who were established in a primary health care system that was the envy of many nations in our region (look at all the glowing health indicators we had achieved as a nation and now how these are regressing?). Look now at the overly ostentatious focus we give to medical care to that of prevention in the name of improving health! Hospitals and doctors are merely a part of a holistic health care system, not the only or primary part of it. Our national health can improve - especially now with our communicable diseases under reasonable control - is to focus on preventing our lifestyle behaviors such as our smoking, drinking all those fizzy and energy drinks, eating all the fatty foods that are of an imported culture, and reducing our riding on motor-cycles and rather begin bicycling and walking. These are what will make us healthy in the future. Not the removal of a health minister from her post with the slap of blame on the occurrence of a few health incidents in our nation seen in only the first few months in the post. The decentralized governance system with the council-backbone needs to begin taking responsible action at the local level instead of reverting all the blame to the center. Human error and misdeeds are a part of human nature. Especially medical errors are always there in small proportion. This is solved by establishing and employing and managing people and systems sustainably. In a dynamic political environment such as we have now in our country and the undue and unprecedented and shortsighted changes we have been bringing on to our health system that had been evolving quite well,  no one person can be the reason of failure. Hospitals and health personnel alone don't and cannot make us healthy - they can only cure or manage our disease condition. Being healthy is really in our own hands, by living a responsible lifestyle that is healthful. 

Shakeela's removal can only be taken as putting a band-aid on a gun-shot wound.  

August 12, 2014

Marital bliss

My friend complains to me about the encroaching marital issues in his life. The skirmishes increase he says - even after all these years! That is a part of life I tell him; nothing is ever as was; life is dynamic and we have to learn to manage that dynamic! 

Our coming together as a twosome in holy matrimony is often an exercise in the meeting of eyes. Yes, more often than not the initial attraction is physical, not deeper or as some call spiritual. Yes, it is a meeting of the egos than of the soul. We are often swept off our feet by the attraction of the physical, but alas, that which wanes, for the physical body wanes with time in this world of form. Yet this seems to be our youthful focus. Little do we reflect on the fact of what sustains a relationship being how two souls gel. The ego is forever craving and demanding while the soul is totally satisfied with its given attributes, and so is devoid of the demanding and competitiveness that is the character of the ego that drives the motive for the glitter of the world of form.

So  the solution to the bickering that is rife in many marital relationships can be addressed by being aware of this dynamic and not blaming each other for their present situation, and attempting consciously to understand that this is the test given in our lives that we must work to pass with distinction. And this agony of a hurtful future can be predominantly avoided only by selecting a "good" spouse - or soul mate - consciously. Remember, behind every successful man there is a caring wife! And the other way round too I would say. This requires the effort of being able to rise above that ephemeral skin-deep beauty or brawn that the ego seeks but having the courage of the heart to dive deeper to find that ethereal beauty that lies beneath and that which is unchanging and everlasting.

For achieving this we have to say no to our ego and yes to our soul.

August 4, 2014

Save the trees

Walking around Male one cannot but notice with some sadness the demise of a forest cover that we ever had 50 years ago when houses were shaded and shadowed by all types of tropical foliage. But now, alas, this picture has turned upside down; the high-rises shade and shadow the few trees we have left. I guess that is what development means these days, and yours truly may not be devoid of blame either as a Male citizen. Yes, there are several streets that boast great tree cover from shade trees planted 30 years or more ago, yet there are many that lie bare in the scorching heat. But what I feel most regretful is the absence of those fruit trees of yore, the canopy of mango, fluttering groves of papaya and guava, the majestic bread-fruit, and yes, the throng of banana that crowded the Male scenery. Complementing these were also the copious and ubiquitous groves of plants and bushes that bore sweet smelling flowers. Now much of it is gone but for a few lingering forlorn survivors that are perhaps awaiting their uprooting to be replaced by yet another high-rise edifice. 

 In our relentless drive to build in the image of development our precious little ground water that exists in the form of a freshwater lens couched within our fine coral sand is also soon in threat of final depletion because everyone now wants to have an underground parking lot for vehicles that we don’t need on this square mile of home, the construction of which bleeds all this water for days. So what will be the plight of our few trees that are there? A good present moment example is the high-rise that is coming up beside our grand mosque in Male from which two four inch pipes pump this fresh water into the sea for days; yes, why not into some seepage pit on land?! Thus, in this same vein, I beseech Allah to give our civic leaders the mind for environment to win over this warped sense of development.

To save the few majestic vegetation that still populate Male I would suggest that the city council plead with those homeowners who happen to be the stewards of these historic stalwart trees for house plot changes in lieu so that these few trees can be saved as city park spaces or mosque premises for future generations to witness the beauty of nature -- places where our children, youth, and the elderly can continue to have the opportunity to behold the wonder of Allah’s Creation.