DHAKA, Sept 19, 2020 (BSS) – That was in mid-July of 2002 when char dweller Safaruddin’s wife Saleha Khatun died from antenatal complication for absence of any healthcare facility at where they live, a small isle on intersection of two major rives – Brahmaputra and Teesta – in north-eastern part of Bangladesh.
“That time our nearest health facility was the health complex in Chilmari upazila sadar and you need a sailing boat to get there … Yes .. no doubt!! I managed a boat with my level best try and scrambled to sadar with my ailing wife … but no … I couldn’t make it … she died at the boat,” Safaruddin recalled the most tragic moment of his life in chocked voice.
This is just one out of thousand incidents that the marginal people of the char area used to go through especially in emergency cases during the child birth. But the scenario has changed now. Currently, the river-erosion-hit distressed marginal char inhabitants got their healthcare savior – ‘community clinic’.
“Now, when I see pregnant women are going to the community clinic at our char and getting free treatment and medicine from there, I felt sorry for my late wife .. if this clinic would have been here in 2002, I may not lose my spouse and my kids would not be orphans,” said Safaruddin with a remorse voice.
Rahmatullah, a retired school teacher at Chilmari upazila said poor people of chars are actually ignorant of the fact that health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being and accessible health system is essential to fulfill this right.
“So, now when they are getting health care at free of cost it seems as like a dream to them … thanks the present government to do something for this underprivileged people,” he said.
The story of Ashia, a mid-aged widow of Kodalkati char under Chilmari upazial, is kind of similar as she had lost her husband due to lack of treatment 15 years back.
After being widow, she had even lost half of her ancestral land in river erosion which pushed her further in the struggle of life with three kids. “I have passed many days with fever without any medicine as we don’t have enough money to buy medicine,” Ashia said in a pale voice.
“I lost hope of life. But, suddenly the community clinic changed the scenario. Now, I can visit doctors there anytime and the privileged thing is that we get medicine at free of cost,” she said with a sigh of relief that also flashed out in her eyes.
Other char women also echoed Ashia and said currently they are getting maternal healthcare along with other services at the community clinic. “Now women of our char are getting skilled birth attendants during the delivery,” Sakhina, a 40 year-old woman residing at the same char said.
“We are too poor to see private physicians. We don’t have enough money to go to sadar upazila by boat to visit a doctor even at the public hospital there. Thanks to the community clinics which come to us as saviours,” said Rafiqul Islam, a 60-year old man residing at the char.
He said the community clinic took just a few days to become popular. “Every day, people are taking health care services standing in queues. We are too happy to get healthcare services at our doorsteps” he said.
Civil Surgeon of Kurigram district Dr M Habibur Rahman said currently community clinics all over the district becoming the prime source of primary healthcare for people specially the poor. “The clinics remain open for six days in a week providing treatment to 50 to 60 patients daily,” he said.
The clinics are providing services like mother and children healthcare, reproductive healthcare, family planning, vaccination, nutrition, diabetics, high blood pressure and 30 kinds of primary medicines at free of cost.
“The clinics are playing important roles in ensuring healthcare services at char level. The confidence level and reliability of people are getting higher day by day regarding the services of the clinics,” Dr Rahman said.
Terming the community clinic as one of the most successful innovative initiatives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, “Initially there was a mixed perception of the common people regarding the service of community clinics. But right now, the sincerity of the clinic staffs has helped the people gain confidence in it,” he said.
Community Health Care Providers (CHCP) at char areas said they have been frequently conducting safe normal deliveries at the centre.
“Apart from reproductive healthcare we are providing treatment to children over primary diseases like flu, fever and stomachache … we are receiving 60 to 70 patients every day,” said Shahjahan Miah, a local CHCP.
The CHCPs of the community clinic located at different char areas have been passing busiest time compared to other clinics in the Kurigram district due to their remoteness.
“We are attending more patients compared to other centres as char people mostly fishermen and their family members don’t have another better choice rather than coming here for getting healthcare,” said one of the CHCPs of the char area.
Community Clinic is the flagship program of Awami League government, an innovation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to extend primary health care to the doorsteps of people all over rural Bangladesh.
There are nearly 18000 community clinics currently in the country and the number is gradually increasing.