Basic healthcare services absent in Char lands
Excluded from the mainstream development programmes, the people living on Char lands across the country also lack access to basic healthcare services.
According to a study conducted on 51 char lands in Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat and Pabna districts, around 71 percent of char dwellers depend on quack doctors while only 15 percent can have access to qualified doctors.
The findings of the study conducted by Unnayan Shamannay in association with the Concern Worldwide were presented at a roundtable entitled 'Health Poverty in Chars of Northwest Bangladesh' at Cirdap auditorium in the city yesterday.
The study reveals that more than 97 percent of deliveries take place at home. Nearly 70 percent of mothers do not get medical attention during their pregnancy while more than 85 percent of mothers do not receive postnatal care.
"Almost no healthcare services, not even temporary ones, are available in char lands. Occasional vaccination camps, satellite clinics or visits from NGO teams are the only source of medical advice there," said Taifur Rahman, chief of Programme and Research, Unnayan Shamannay.
Char dwellers have to travel long distance to receive medical service, as the nearest government health facilities are located at Union level, which are also in poor condition. Moreover, poor communication system causes suffering to patients.
Apart from the lack of healthcare services, poverty is one of the main obstacles for char dwellers to receiving better healthcare services outside the Char lands.
Also, the households on Char lands often lose their lands, trees, livestock and other assets to floods and river erosion, which increases their poverty and vulnerability, speakers at the roundtable pointed out.
The study also shows that about 77 percent of Char dwellers are considered hardcore poor and 9 percent moderate poor.
Khairul Islam, country representative of Water Aid, said lack of safe water and sanitation in Char lands puts life at risk. The number of diarrhoea cases is extremely high in these areas.
The experts placed several recommendations to ensure better healthcare for the Char dwellers. They include raising awareness about healthcare, improving facility and communication system, bringing changes to the health policy, providing special incentive for health workers to encourage them to work in char lands and introducing river ambulance and telemedicine services in Char lands.
Asaduzzaman Noor MP, Kieron Crawley, country director of Concern Worldwide, Dr Atiur Rahman, chairman of Unnayan Shamannay, Zafrullah Chowdhury of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, and Sajeda Begum, coordinator, Nodi O Jibon project of Concern Worldwide, also spoke at the roundtable.