Health care in Cox’s Bazar
Last November Cartier Philanthropy visited BRAC’s health interventions in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. “The worst seems to be over” told us doctor Shariful.
“The worst seems to be over and we’re now mostly dealing with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, as well as skin problems and diarrhoea”.
Dr Shariful speaks in a surprisingly calm voice. He is one of the six doctors employed by BRAC to work at the “Lambashia” Primary Health Centre in Camp 1E. The centre is situated on the Kutupalong Site, the biggest of the 34 registered camps that form the settlement area sheltering around 900,000 Rohingya refugees. Most of these people fled targeted violence in neighbouring Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017. After more than two years, the majority are still reliant on humanitarian assistance, services and resources, including shelter, food, clean water and sanitation.
Cartier Philanthropy visited the centre last November, as we are supporting BRAC to improve the health services provided in the camps.
BRAC has worked in Cox’s Bazar for the past 36 years, assisting the host communities and Rohingya population from previous influxes. Today, the organisation serves more than 500,000 people in the area with the broadest programming portfolio of any responder and extensive human resources.
In the health sector, BRAC runs 10 Primary Health Centres that each provide 24/7 care for a population of 25,000, plus 5 Health Posts, both fixed and mobile.
Luftur Nahar is one of BRAC’s 5,050 Community Health Worker Volunteers, the “foot soldiers” who regularly follow up women’s pregnancies, offering pre-natal counselling and checking door-to-door with the households of new-born children to help with breastfeeding, hygiene practices, vaccine planning and family planning.
“I see myself as a bridge between the patients and medical staff. The services are available, but the real struggle is to get people out of their tarpaulin roof and bamboo wall houses to seek help or treatment. There are many cultural restrictions on women’s and girls’ mobility. It’s partly a cultural issue and partly because they don’t feel safe or are not comfortable sharing their problems. My job is to make them knowledgeable of their conditions and build trust”.
Community health workers, whether paid or volunteers, are on the front line in many countries and crucial to achieving universal health coverage. Cartier Philanthropy supports several organisations that work with community health workers in Togo, Mali and Kenya to make high-quality primary healthcare available to all.