DHAKA: For six months, two-year-old Akhimoni waited for the surgery she desperately needed for her burn injuries.
Her father, Abul Kalam, and mother, Nazma Begum, could not afford a hospital in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, and had almost given up hope.
Then Nazma heard about the Emirates Friendship Hospital, a floating medical center in the Gaibandha District, and set off with her daughter on the four-hour journey there.
“Here, Akhimoni got her surgery free of cost yesterday,” she said. “Not only that, we are also getting all the medicines for free.”
The family are not the only ones from the char areas, the wetlands of Bangladesh, to benefit from the floating hospital. The islands they live on are often far from the mainland, and difficult to reach. The people of the chars are mostly deprived of proper education and health care.
The hospital was launched in 2008 by Friendship, a non-governmental organization, in collaboration with the Dubai-based Emirates airline. The aim is to provide health care for the remote char communities, which Friendship describes as among the “most vulnerable and marginalized people in the world.”
Emirates Friendship is the organization’s second floating hospital. The first, the Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital, was launched in 2001 in a converted French river barge, with sponsorship from Unilever Bangladesh. There are now three, providing free treatment including primary health care and mother-and-child care.
Each one is fully equipped and staffed with a professionally qualified MBBS doctor, a group of nurses, and medical assistants. More than 30 staff serve in each ship around the clock, seven days a week. The villagers can visit from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Each hospital has up to eight beds for critical patients. Friendship also operates 400 satellite clinics to provide primary health care to people in the chars.
“We believe in maximum level of care for the patient so that they are cured. Otherwise there is no meaning in visiting our hospital,” said Runa Khan, the founder and executive director of Friendship.
“With these three Friendship floating hospitals and 400 satellite clinics, we have treated around 4.2 million poor people over the last 13 years.
“We will introduce another 250 satellite clinics next year. In addition, we will launch five more floating hospitals named King Abdullah Friendship Hospital, a donation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which are now under construction in a shipyard near Dhaka.”
Friendship also plans to launch a 50-bed hospital at Shyamnagar Thana for the people of the coastal area, who are struggling every day with the effects of climate change.
Ahoy there! The doctor will see you now...
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