Someone You Should Know: Helping his home country

Retired Sioux Falls surgeon Dr. Rifat Hussain is helping his native Pakistan get easier access to water.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 7:49 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Dr. Rifat Hussain came to Sioux Falls in 1975.

“I came to visit a friend of mine who was a physician working at the Veterans Hospital. And I drove around town and I just decided that I wanted to live in a small town, rural type of society. Because most of training I did was in New York City and Syracuse,” said Dr. Hussain.

That was the beginning of a 43 year career as a plastic surgeon here.

“Sioux Falls allowed me to be me. And I got to know a of very kind and generous people,” said Dr. Hussain.

After retiring in 2019, he started a different path, helping his home country.

“I grew up in the border of area of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just to give you an idea, there was no running water in the house. There was one tap for whole neighborhood, from where you took buckets and you brought water to the house,” said Dr. Hussain.

It’s a problem that still exists there.

“My concern was that when climate change came around, I started reading about it. And there was study out from the United Nations that said in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, and Northern India, the amount of water availability is going down by %50 by 2024-25,” said Dr. Hussain.

So Dr. Hussain decided to do something. He went there and hired locals to drill wells. Taught them about wind power, and used things he’d learned from his practice about water conservation.

“Who has taught me water conservation. The people of west river South Dakota. All my patients taught me. I went there, I went to their ranches. I saw the stock dams. I asked them how to build stock dams, what material to use. All this accumulated knowledge, I put to work over there,” said Dr. Hussain.

Easier access to water, makes life easier.

“Women and children are traveling anywhere from six, to eight, to ten miles to the river, or their source of water, that they can find to get water. Well, if we could drill a well in the village, 100 yards from everybody, and 50 yards from everybody, and build a storage facility. Then they won’t have to go that far,” said Dr. Hussain.

With a hands on South Dakota approach, and the hiring of locals, Dr. Hussain has drilled more than forty wells. He’s financed it on his own, and with donations from friends. And its been a rewarding time of his life.

“You asked me how old I am. I said that I am 79 going on 80. And you said I’m young. That’s why I’m young, that’s what makes me young. I belong. I’m trying to help out. Everyone that sees me, says there’s this white-haired man from the U.S., who’s helping out,” said Dr. Hussain.

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