Friendship’s Healing Touch


by Janelle Tyson

Working among the people who live along the riverbanks of Bangladesh, called char dwellers, Friendship runs three floating hospitals that provide medical care for a vulnerable and marginalised section of the population. MAF serves Friendship by regularly flying volunteer international doctors and supplies to their three floating hospitals, as road travel in Bangladesh is difficult, tiring and slow. Bringing international doctors to Friendship’s remote floating hospitals is a perfect match for the service MAF provides with its amphibious aircraft.

Friendship’s mission is to restore dignity to marginalised communities by delivering effective development solutions using a holistic needs-based approach among people living along the rivers of the country. Friendship helps to develop basic skills and provide an infrastructure that will lift communities out of poverty and provide sustainable opportunities. They work in a variety of areas including healthcare, education and disaster management.

At the end of 2013, MAF provided seven flights for 25 doctors who came mainly from France and specialised in eye, dental and reconstruction surgeries. The doctors bring their medical expertise, and also medicines and medical instruments which are difficult to access in Bangladesh. As the international doctors conduct surgeries, the local doctors assist, which helps to develop the knowledge and experience of the local medical staff who work regularly on the floating hospitals and satellite clinics.

The Friendship floating hospitals help patients like MD Somej Uddin, 80 years-old, who came to the hospital with the complaint of difficulty with vision in his left eye. Due to his vision problem, he was neglected by his three sons and one daughter. He wanted an operation on his eye in order to be more valued by his family. A Friendship Eye Medical Assistant diagnosed Uddin as suffering from a mature cataract and conducted his surgery on the floating hospital during an eye camp. After his surgery, his eye dressing was taken off and he was given black glasses. He showed his gratefulness as he could see everything around him as before. After taking off the dressing and having been given the glasses, he was discharged and went home by boat.

Taniya, 14 years-old, was admitted to the ship with a post-burn contracture (a shortening of a muscle or joint) on the left side of her neck and the front throat region. She had received an electric burn when she was four years-old while playing outside her home in the village, when an 11KV wire dropped on her. She complained she could not straighten her neck and could not eat properly. Taniya also could not blink her eyelids well. She was selected for reconstructive surgery. The doctor and his team conducted a two-hour long operation, releasing her contracture of the neck but left the contracture of the throat for further treatment next year. After the operation, she was taken to the observation ward, where she awoke, found the contraction gone and could move her head without any obstruction. On the second day after the surgery, Taniya was delighted as the pain was lessened and she could move her head with greater ease. She expressed her gratitude to be relieved her from her status as a social outcaste. After her first dressing was removed she was healthier, and can now move, eat and blink easier.

Taniya’s father is a farmer of 38 years of age and has six people in his home to feed. With his 5000-6000 Taka monthly income (£39-47 GBP), it was very difficult to treat his daughter. One day he heard from another family whose daughter’s contracture was treated before about the surgery team coming on the ship. Taniya made a nine-hour journey to reach the ship from her village and was treated on the floating hospital for a reduced rate.
Sabrina Nizam, the Communications Officer for Friendship shared, “The benefit MAF is providing is boundless. It’s a huge hassle to go by road, rickshaw and then walk. The international doctors who come to work with us are volunteers. Their time is valuable. We use the help of MAF to maximise time and go to the places and help the people.” Together, Friendship and MAF are providing medical care to remote people living along the rivers in Bangladesh.

Patient photos provided by Friendship

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