In Bangladesh, we are supporting hospitals and health outreach to rural communities
Health work is very much at the heart of the Church of Bangladesh's ministry and outreach.
Here is how Martyr Chowdhury, financial and administration manager at Rajshahi Hospital, puts it: 'It is vital that the church is involved in healthcare. Jesus healed, and we carry out the same ministry as Jesus. In this way we can touch people’s hearts.'
Martyr adds: 'Through the hospital and other social development work, people in this part of the country have great faith in this hospital and in Christian service, and Christians have been able to build a good rapport with neighbours of other faiths. Also, by offering this service, often for free, we have been able to demonstrate our care to those who face economic hardship and cannot afford to pay for treatment, especially tribal people, some of whom have only one meal a day.
'Our nurse training programme is also very important. As well as providing job skills and an income for the nurses, many of whom come from very poor families, we are providing Bangladesh with nurses of the highest quality.'
He continues: 'We are a Christian hospital. Our nurses and hospital staff attend worship and other activities which help them spiritually. And we are inter-denominational. Members of different churches are able to work and worship together, creating an atmosphere of ecumenical understanding.'
The emphasis of our work with the Church of Bangladesh is on raising awareness of health issues and disease prevention so that communities feel empowered to take matters of health into their own hands. At the same time, we are supporting vital church-run medical services provided through hospitals, clinics and community outreach.
Some of the church's health initiatives are run by the Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme (CBSDP), whose philosophy exactly matches that of Us: CBSDP defines health as a state of physical, mental, social, environmental and spiritual well-being – these five dimensions are inter-related and each affects the health of the whole person.
And, echoing the mission of the World Health Organisation, CBSDP states: ‘Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over their health… to empower individuals and communities to organise, prioritise and act on health issues.’
Here is a closer look at the work we are supporting in Bangladesh:
A 65-bed hospital covering a vast rural region, treating 1,400 inpatients a year and many more outpatients. The hospital is particularly well regarded for its care for the elderly, mothers and babies. The hospital also runs a health outreach programme in local villages, providing training in nutrition and basic healthcare.
Bollobhpur Nursing School
Based at Bollobhpur Hospital, the nursing school is training nurse aides, who are much needed in a country that has a shortage of extra medical personnel. The students – mostly women – leave with excellent job prospects, enabling them to find support their families.
Bollobhpur Community Health
Bollobhpur Hospital runs an outreach service to a large rural population, with a special scheme to train local women as traditional birth attendants.
One health worker explained: ‘I am there to help with deliveries or to help if there are problems during pregnancy or labour. And if a woman needs specialist attention, I can accompany her to hospital or the nearest clinic.’
The outreach service operates through village outstations, staffed by a nurse or midwife and two trainee community health workers; one specialising in mothers and babies, the other in care for the elderly.
Rajshahi Hospital and Nursing School
Rajshahi Hospital offers a vital health service to poor and vulnerable communities. A mission hospital founded in 1887, the hospital treats people of all faiths, with a special fund for patients who cannot afford medical fees. The hospital also trains nurses and has a Nursing School attached.
Jobarpar Community Health Programme
Jobarpar is a flood-prone area in the River Ganges delta, where there is widespread unemployment, poverty and malnutrition. This programme focuses on areas where government response is limited, with four main strands of work: community clinics, health awareness, an eye camp for the elderly, and hygienic latrines.