In the border district of Sunamganj, 70 babies in every 1,000 used to die at birth just three years ago. The rate was very high compared to the national average child mortality rate of about 43.
This prompted British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to intervene in the most remote communities of the district to improve child mortality rate and maternal health services both during and after pregnancy.
As a part of GSK's commitment to reinvest 20 percent of its profits, the "Community Health Worker (CHW)" project was launched in December 2012. The initiative is implemented by CARE Bangladesh and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Though the latest figure of child mortality is yet to be revealed -- it will be announced this November -- stakeholders have seen improvement of the situation over the last three years.
Vice President of GSK Ramil Burden expressed his satisfaction over the project's outcome.
Talking to The Daily Star, he said they "deliberately selected one of the most remote and difficult areas."
According to baseline findings by CARE Bangladesh, unskilled midwives used to perform 89 percent of the total deliveries.
Currently, skilled birth attendants are conducting 51 percent of the total deliveries in Sunamganj.
So far, the public-private partnership (PPP) project has succeeded in creating 168 private skilled birth attendants and 2,112 community health workers in 50 unions of the district.
On September 9, the stakeholders expanded the project for the next three years comprising all upazilas of the district, with a target to increase the number of skilled birth attendants to 300 and community health workers to 3,700 to cover the remaining 38 unions.
Under the initiative, approximately 120,000 modern medical facilities were given to young mothers in the rural areas in the last one year.
THE PPP PROJECT
GSK Vice President Ramil Burden said approximately £2 million from their profit was reinvested in the project.
The British national, who leads GSK's operations in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Papua New Guinea, said, "It's not a GSK programme actually, but it's a programme to develop partnerships with the local ministry of health and national ministry of health and the NGO, which in this case is CARE."
CARE International UK's Chief Executive Officer Laurie Lee said, "We focused on the region because it's a remote one which needed more health services, and we decided to work in the hardest part of the country for health services."
TIME AND COST EFFECTIVE
The project saw an overflowing success in terms of time, cost and safety as 68 of the recipients were either poor or ultra-poor.
"Why should I go to the upazila health complex or hospital by spending time and energy?" questioned Marium Begum, who is expecting. She said she can enjoy maternal health facilities near home from a skilled attendant who stays nearby.
Soon after passing her SSC exams, Salma Akhtar began her career as a nurse at a local hospital. She joined the GSK-CARE Bangladesh arranged six-month training programme at Kishoreganj and Mymensingh.
Since then, she has been providing skilled services to village mothers.
"I either treat about 20 to 25 patients at my home or I visit almost 10 to 12 houses on an average," she told The Daily Star. She said she delivers nearly 12 to 14 babies per month.