Guwahati Sept 3: As monsoon floods and marooned villages flash on our TV screens and the front pages of the media, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, (C-NES) has been quietly providing health services to communities on the river islands of the Brahmaputra in Assam, reaching thousands who do not have access to health facilities and services through its unique Boat Clinic” initiatives.”
As of 31 August 2008, 59,188 beneficiaries have been reached covering over 198 villages and river islands in the five districts and the work is continuing apace in Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Morigaon and Dhubri. The target is to reach at least one lakh persons by the year-end and to further increase this number substantially in 2009 as a result of the PPP (Public Private Partnership) between C-NES and National Rural Health Mission.
The boats are specially designed floating clinics cum training centers. Equipped with beds, saline bottle stands and other necessary medical gear, the vessels also provide facilities for treatment on board including basic health services. The health teams, led by District Community Organizers (DCOs), work extensively on health awareness issues like reproductive health, sanitation, nutrition, malaria control and prevention. Priority is given to delivery of national immunization programme for children as well as pre and post –natal check ups for women. There are doctors, nurses, pharmacists and laboratory technicians.
In these five districts, the C-NES clinics are reaching the poor and marginalized with sustained health care for the first time in their lives; UNICEF is also involved in Dibrugarh district where the organization began its innovative work in 2005. In February 2008, the health programme was significantly up scaled after an MOU was signed with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Government of Assam, to increase the districts covered.
“The partnership with NRHM has given a dynamic impetus to our efforts which are particularly crucial in the current bout of floods” said Sanjoy Hazarika, C-NES Managing Trustee. Mr. Hazarika pointed out that there are over 2,500 saporis/chars in Assam with a population of over 25 lakh which are badly hit by the floods.
NRHM is funding the programme in terms of medicines, equipment, running costs and salaries. C-NES has designed and built the health ships, appointed the doctors and the organizers of the campaign.
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