Delivering emergency care to the most vulnerable

Date Publish: 
Bangladesh / Asia

This article was originally published on the UN CERF website.

Five-year old Ehsam (not his real name) had suffered from a debilitating inguinal hernia since he was six months old. Funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) helped get him the life-saving treatment he needed.

Fairly common and relatively easy-to-treat, most inguinal hernias occur when a portion of the intestine bulges out at a weak point in the abdominal wall. Ehsam’s parents were unaware that, if left untreated, the condition could have fatal complications. But, as is the case for most people in Bangladesh, hospital care was simply unaffordable.

“We did not know what Ehsam was suffering from or where to seek help. The traditional healers we went to only managed to make the pain worse,” said Ehsam’s mother, Farida.

Spreading the word

One day, Farida found out about free medical consultations at a community meeting in Uttar Mamunpur, a remote and impoverished town in Bangladesh’s south eastern district of Cox’s Bazar where she lives with her husband and five children. The consultations were provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In September 2013, CERF's Underfunded Emergencies Window gave US$650,000 to enable IOM create mobile medical teams to provide emergency health services to vulnerable people in Cox’s Bazar.

More than 150 health volunteers were trained to spread the word about the medical teams and the services available. They share information about preventative healthcare, safe sanitation and hygiene practices, and the availability of free medical consultations for people in need.

Eighteen-year-old Munni is one of IOM’s volunteers said:“It is a real honour that the women in the neighborhood openly discuss their health as well as other social issues with me."

A full recovery

Ehsam was operated on in April 2014 and made a full recovery. “I cannot believe the miracle. My son can now run and play with other children in the neighborhood,” Farida said.

The programme has already provided free medical consultations to more than 30,000 people like Esham, and reached close to 500,000 people with critical information about health and sanitation practices.

Dr. Mohiuddin Khan, the Project Coordinator of IOM, said: “The overwhelming response from the community and the enthusiasm of the volunteers is inspiring. This is what we believe will lead to a sustained improvement of the health situation in one of the least developed districts in Bangladesh.”

In 2013 alone, CERF provided $2 million from its Underfunded Emergencies Window to support humanitarian activities in Bangladesh.