Our trip started out on an adventurous note, with a political diversion to Lahore for 15 hours and eventually arriving in Islamabad 15 hours later than expected. We caught a few hours sleep and then drove up the Karakorum Highway (KKH) for 2 days with many army roadblocks along the way.
On arrival in Gilgit, we had a very productive meeting with Dr. Zaeem Zia, a John Hopkins trained local physician who was conducting a series of training sessions for village medical technicians. Dr. Zia has been very supportive of our work in Hunza.
We both felt a great sense of calm as soon as we arrived in Karimibad (Hunza). That magnificent vista down valley towards Rakaposhi, the cooler and less polluted air and the great hospitality of the Hunza people worked wonders in relaxing and comforting our exhausted aching, aging bodies!
We got the opportunity the first evening in Karimibad to meet the chairman and some board members of KADO.
The following morning, I had a productive meeting with Ms Zadia Zia the current Minister of Tourism for Gilgit/Baltistan. We discussed ways to improve the travel experience for western tourists visiting Hunza and ways to encourage more visitors to come in a safer way. We discussed the possibilities of coming in from Kashgar on the China side. She had indicated that preliminary talks had already taken place to develop a more active tourist corridor between Kashgar and Hunza. Improving the economic status of the residents of Hunza through improving employment in the tourism area would help improve the overall health of the people of Hunza. Hunza has a large number of well educated young adults that would thrive in a robust tourism economy. This would keep more young adults in the Hunza area and reduce the need to travel to the cities for low paying jobs.
We then had a meeting in Aliabad with Amjad (Chairman), Mubeen (CEO) and other members of the KADO team to discuss our work plan. Many good ideas/recommendations came from this meeting
KADO agreed to allow Imran Khan travel with us as interpreter and guide. Imran was a great asset to our team and worked diligently to make the trip successful.
We then met with the Government of Pakistan District Health Officer Dr. Sher Hafiz. We discussed many local health issues and ways we could work collaboratively in the future. In particular, we discussed the TB situation in the Shimshal Valley and discussed previous studies, the estimated prevalence and possible ways we could work together to try to eliminate the problem from the Shimshal Valley.