Expanding Health Services in Bhashan Char

Friendship operating clinic and three units at government hospital for displaced Rohingya

Rohingya patients sitting around a table at a primary health clinic in Bhashan Char
by RAEED ABD-ALLAH CHOWDHURY
March 3, 2022

Friendship has opened a 12-bed Primary Health Clinic (PHC) in Bhashan Char, an island developed to accommodate 100,000 Rohingya refugees. Friendship is also running three units at a 20-bed government hospital, and the only operation theatre providing caesarean section deliveries on the island.

The PHC offers primary healthcare, general consultation, paediatric consultation, ante- and post-natal care, normal vaginal delivery, family planning services, sexual and reproductive health services, mental health and psycho-social services, vaccinations and in-patient services. It is equipped with a pathology lab, a triage area and a dispensary.

As of February, Friendship also operates the eyecare, dental care and gynaecology and obstetrics units at the island’s hospital, run jointly by the government and NGOs. These units will be supported by visiting consultants on a periodic basis, as well as a full-time anaesthesiologist. The team will also include a full-time OT nurse, a midwife, and a pathology unit with the support of a lab technologist.

Dental chair at a primary health clinic for Rohingya patients in Bhashan char
A view inside the dental unit at the government hospital

The 20-bed hospital is one of two such facilities on the island, to be managed and operated by the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), the Office of the Civil Surgeon, Noakhali/Directorate-General of Health Services (DGHS) and healthcare-providing NGOs.

Over 4 years since the most recent mass influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, the 1 million Rohingyas remain stranded at the camps in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar—unable to go back home to certain doom, and running short of space and resources.

A stop-gap measure has been to request these Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN) to voluntarily move to Bhashan Char, Hatiya. The island has been specifically designated to handle the persecuted community in a planned, systematic manner, unlike the emergency arrangements that had been made in Ukhiya at the end of 2017.

Rohingya women and children waiting at a primary health clinic in Bhashan Char
Patients waiting on a veranda at the PHC

The government’s plan is to ultimately transfer around 10% of the total Rohingya population from Ukhiya to Bhashan Char, where a large-scale housing project has been completed by the Bangladesh Navy. The stated objective is to reduce pressure on Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and provide the refugees with better living conditions. So far, 20,000 refugees have been moved to Bhashan Char.

Friendship is one of the largest providers of healthcare services at the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya, and in Bhashan Char. Besides its operations at the PHC and the government hospital, Friendship will also work to create awareness on health and the facilities available to treat the community. Teams of Community Health Workers (CHWs) will provide door-to-door services and conduct community-based sessions. Prior to opening the clinic, Friendship had been operating a health post on the island since December 2020.

British High Commission senior staff at a primary health clinic for Rohingya patients in Bhashan Char
Senior officials from the British High Commission pay a visit to the PHC

 Most recently, Judith Herbertson, development director of the British High Commission, and Nick Harvey, head of the humanitarian team, visited the interventions in Bhashan Char to conduct a feasibility study for funding opportunities. Their one-day visit included Friendship’s PHC. The High Commissioner commented, “I continue to be impressed by Friendship’s work and dedication.”

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