Engaging in sports intrinsically makes you more mindful about your body. You may start speculating how to be healthier – a good entry point for inquiring about your general well-being. For adolescent girls in marginalised communities, these questions can lead to discussions about more sensitive topics, particularly sexual and reproductive health.
Traditional hospital-based services are not able to reach some of the world’s poorest and most remote villages. Over one billion people globally, including 400 million Africans, lack access to health services because they live too far from a health facility. Rural communities know that if a child becomes ill, the long walk for treatment could potentially turn a minor ailment into a serious health problem.
Since its inception in 1972, BRAC has been all about empowering women. Efforts to improve gender relations within the organisation itself resulted in the gender quality action learning programme and ‘mon khule kotha bola’, a forum where all staff members, especially women, could share their opinions with the management. BRAC Gender Justice and Diversity has always been quick to respond to programme participants with questions about issues of violence, sexual harassment and women’s health. The following is an example of one such case received from a BRAC school student.
Sutarkhali is located in Khulna, next to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans. Climate change in this southern region has seen cyclones with more damaging effects. The sea level is rising, and loss of land through erosion and saltwater intrusion makes it hard to find safe drinking water. There are 40 million people living in the coastal belt of Bangladesh who rely on natural water sources to sustain their livelihoods and daily needs.
“I had never seen such a large-scale calamity before," said Puja Gloria Rodrigues, psychosocial counsellor from BRAC University’s Institute of Educational Development (IED). Three days after the Rana Plaza collapse, she arrived at the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedics Rehabilitation (NITOR) in Dhaka along with a group of counsellors.
Right after the Rana Plaza collapse, a special committee from the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office decided that BRAC would assist in the rehabilitation of amputation survivors. Specialising in upper limb prosthetics support, BRAC’s limb and brace centre (BLBC) has been providing these services, frequently working with the government and other NGOs to reach those who have lost limbs through accidents and diseases.
“My name is Salimatu, I am 20 years old and an ELA member of the Kukubana club in Rokupr. I really do not know how I contracted the virus. One day, my aunt saw that I was bleeding, and I had a high fever. Knowing too well these are symptoms of the disease, she called the Ebola hotline (117) and they arrived later with an ambulance. I was taken to the Lakka treatment centre where I stayed for three weeks.
This winter, BRAC reached out to distribute over 100,000 blankets and warm clothes all over Bangladesh. Lives are lost every year in the country due to the cold spell that affects the poor and homeless who cannot afford warm clothing and appropriate housing. The Give Warmth This Winter campaign was launched in December 2014 with the aim to effectively ensure that warmth reaches those who are in need.
There is a lot of room for innovation when it comes to health. In a resource-poor country like Bangladesh, effective and low-cost preventive and basic curative interventions can save millions of lives. If they are rooted in community demand and context, they can be implemented at a great scale.
“A study undertaken in Bangladesh revealed an 11 per cent increase in girls’ enrolment mainly due to the provision of sanitary toilets.” -Technical paper series/IRC, In Bangladesh the standard number of toilets in schools has been set as a minimum of one toilet for every 60 students. However, this is far from being achieved. The infographic below shows that on average, schools in Bangladesh have half the number of toilets required. However, although 94 per cent of schools have latrines within the compound, a large number remain unusable because they are dirty or broken.