Poverty and ill-health are the two sides of a coin that complement each other too. Diseases, ailments are the pivotal elements of the poverty cycle. It's a common picture of our country that many people embrace extreme poverty due to ill health and chronic diseases as these ruin their economic strength completely.
Despite various steps and measures taken by the government for improving public health in recent times, a significant number of people mostly living in the remote areas still are deprived of modern health services and facilities of the state. People of the remote villages remain out of medical coverage throughout the life. These people depend on the quacks, traditional physicians, for meeting their treatment needs. As a result, health risks of the people increase making them victims of critical diseases.
Generation after generation, poor people at the grassroots level are compelled to lead their life facing this reality. As a result, they could never taste the joy of good health or get relief from poverty. Over the course of time, the downtrodden and underprivileged people have been reeling under the vicious circle of poverty, ailment and ill-health. With an aim to provide healthcare services to the underprivileged people of the country the ASA undertook a multifaceted Health Programme in 2011, which has been offering important and needful healthcare services to the target people. This programme adopts three ways of health service delivery: a) Primary Healthcare, b) Physiotherapy, and c) Combined Health and Education.
Primary Health Centres: Under the programme, quite a number of Health Centres were founded in remote areas of different parts of the country. A Medical Assistant and four-five Health Assistants have been appointed for each health centre to provide healthcare and consultation services to the outdoor patients coming to the centre as well as the patients from villages adjacent to the centre.
A number of 54 Primary Health Centres were established in far-flung areas of the country so far under this programme. These Centres are offering crucial services to the patients, including diabetic test, nebulisation, urine sugar test and consultations at token fees. Each centre has a medicine dispensary making available necessary medicines that are sold to the patients at subsidized prices. During 2016, 200 thousand (two lakh) patients were provided health services by the Primary Health Centres altogether and, the number of service recipients is likely to cross 300,000 in 2017.
Physiotherapy Programme: This programme was launched in 2012 and since then physiotherapy treatment services have been rendered to the patients across the country. Physiotherapy treatment is not yet familiar to the patients of rural areas. Although, it has been well-appreciated and used for healing traumas, paralysis, chronic pains and organ disorder around the world, it is still lagging behind as a means of treatment popular among the common people of our country.
Generally, low-income people have to depend on hard work for earning their livelihood. To meet the needs of the families, most poor have to work beyond physical ability which causes their physical disorder, traumas, paralysis, loss of premature work ability, etc. In consideration of above health issues of the rural poor the ASA introduced the physiotherapy programme and strive to make the service available for the target groups at their doorsteps.
To offer the service, the organisation arranges camps in rural areas. More than 20 Physiotherapists are deployed in this respect. They provide services using modern medical kits and apparatuses. All necessary treatment and consultations are provided in the camps. Critical patients are referred to get better treatment from hospital or to visit specialist doctors.
Most of the patients who received treatment form ASA Physiotherapy camps have a track record of successful recovery from their illness and returning to normal life. In consequences, the number of patients in the ASA Physiotherapy Camps is increasing gradually. Among the patients who received physiotherapy treatment under the programme two-thirds were women. As the demand for the service rises, the ASA adopts measures by recruiting more Physiotherapists and experts and in turn arranging more camps. During 2016, 50 thousand parents were offered services under the programme.
Combined Health-education Programme: This programme was introduced in 2014, aiming at disseminating health-related services to the ASA borrowers, their family members and the neighbouring people. Under this programme, health checkups of the target people are being done and required treatment and health advices are provided for curing diseases and maintaining good health.
Under the programme, six Health-Shebikas have been appointed for each ASA selected branch. They visit their areas of jurisdiction on a regular basis to provide health services like diabetic test and measuring blood pressure. Health Shebikas also provide health tips and consultations to the guardians to ensure proper growth of their children.
Currently, the combined health-education programme is implemented at 300 branches simultaneously with participation of 1800 Health-Sabikas. They make available benefits of this programme to the households that need healthcare services desperately. ASA developed skilled and competent Health-Shebikas by imparting necessary training and technical knowhow. Besides, all necessary equipment was provided to them.
Out of the above services, ASA runs two Health Centres: Kakina Health Centre at Lominirhat and ASA Health Complex at Chunarughat under Habiganj district. Chunarughat Health Complex is a complete health centre with latest necessary medical equipment and trained technicians successfully meeting the health demand of the local inhabitants.
Altogether, the health programme of ASA renders necessary health services to the downtrodden people of the remote areas of Bangladesh at their doorsteps. This programme is providing very important inputs in improving living standard of the vulnerable groups. As a result, poverty reduction effort of ASA is getting intensified facilitating attainment of the ultimate goal of the organisation.
ASA is an entirely self-financed and self-sustainable organisation. All of its operational expenditures are being met out of its own resources generated from its microfinance programme. The organisation spends nearly Tk 105 million each year in implementing the healthcare programme. This is an exceptional development effort of ASA as NGOs, in general, run their programmes relying on the foreign donors or grants.
Many may be skeptical about on how such a huge programme of ASA runs depending on own resources. Yes, it's a fact. ASA is a completely self-sustainable organisation that stands on own footing and it has been saying no to the donors since 2000. ASA has achieved this strength through management efficiency and cost effective operation. With this fitting strategy ASA continues to move forward to realise sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
The writer is Assistant Director of ASA.