Abdul Sattar Edhi is the founder of the Edhi International Foundation, a private organization that funds relief efforts in Pakistan and Bangladesh. These are some of the poorest nations on earth (the per capita gross domestic product of Pakistan is about $460, which is about 1.3 percent of that in the United States). Consequently, their governments are not always equipped to deal with natural disasters such as fires, floods and earthquakes, or the equally serious damage inflicted by hunger and poverty. Edhi's foundation addresses these problems.
The Foundation also facilitates emergency medical assistance. A recent letter in Dawn, a Pakistani English-language newspaper, reported that the foundation was attempting to "introduce wireless communications systems between its ambulances and receiving hospitals ... as well as better equipped ambulances carrying trained paramedics."
Family and domestic issues are also part of the Edhi Foundation's concerns. Jhoolas, or baby cradles, are set up at Edhi centers so unwanted babies can be left in safety. Foundation-run homes provide for the destitute and mentally ill, while a missing-persons service reconnects separated families.
Abdul Sattar Edhi has gained international recognition for his humanitarian work. In 2000, the Italian government awarded Edhi its Balzan Peace Award. Edhi also addressed the leaders of the world's richest countries at the Group of 8 Summit, speaking about poverty and human rights abuses.
In a November 17, 2000, speech at a reception for the Balzan prize winners, Edhi's friend and biographer, Tehmina Durrani, said this about the beloved humanitarian:
"Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi [is] a man perceived by most as a simple social worker. I recognized him as a role model for the world. Practical involvement in Mr. Edhi's work is natural to anyone in his presence. Bathing corpses and wrapping coffins, spending entire days at collapsed building sites, in psychotic centers and orphanages...[Mr. Edhi is] a man who had not taken a single day's vacation in his entire lifetime. A man who spoke of a hundred years ahead, instead of the next two. A man who conceptualized, created and sustained a welfare network that covered the length and breadth of a nation where every other institution was failing. A man who, without education, affluence and power, labored ceaselessly to one day convert a third-world country into a welfare state."
The Edhi International Foundation has been called the largest and best organized social welfare system in Pakistan and in the Third World. Through his organization, Abdul Sattar Edhi gives the world a vision for implementing humanitarian aid.