“Friendship Apa” (Friendship sister), a well coined nickname for Friendship’s Community Medic-Aides.
Friendship’s Community Medic-Aides win the hearts of the flood affected people
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The daily lives of the marginalized inhabitants of the river islands of Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jamalpur etc. were already unbearable due to low income, non-existent access to medical services, education, communication etc. But now floods in the Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Tista rivers are taking away the hope of even a meager future. Since losing their homes to erosion, they don’t have food, access to drinking water, safe latrines or basic health care. Standing in the chest deep water, with their children, parents and cattle, they can only watch as passing boats filled with people try to reach dry land. The hope is that maybe next time around it will be them on the boats dashing towards safer, dry grounds. The flooding makes life impossible here. It affects the means of communication like roads, bridges and culverts, it destroys crops, it leaves families and their livestock roofless and incredibly vulnerable– forcing them to live with snakes and leeches, and most threateningly, exposing themselves to infection and water borne diseases.
Friendship’s health care teams are doing some great work by providing flood victims with essential information, transportation and free medical aid. One beacon of hope in these difficult times is Friendship’s Community Medic- Aides. Known locally as “Friendship Apas” (an endearing term when literally translated means “Friendship Sisters” — although not in the religious sense), these local women are trained in basic medical aid and are a vital link between their community and the healthcare system as the next two stories testify.
In a village in Gaibandha, Sufia Begum, an elderly widow of 75 was suffering from severe headaches, fever and infection on her legs for the past five days. This infection was due to the exposure to the floods waters. This poor, old women with no means of paying for her treatment, hard of hearing, neglected by her family, regularly unfed and uncared for, could only hope for her time to end in this world. No one was coming forward to help her. But someone did! Thankfully a scouting Friendship boat spotted her in the distance. Her hut was submerged in water when they came to her aid. The Friendship Community Medic-Aides on the boat screened her and gave her medicine to fight the fever and dressed her infection. They gave her water and medicine for the next few days along with some basic food. Grateful, she now claimed these women were a godsend and she blessed the people who came up with the idea of Friendship’s health care system.
Meanwhile in sub district of Madarganj, Jamalpur Aleya Begum was struggling with her two daughters and son. She lives in a remote village along with her day laborer husband Mohammed Halim Miah. Her youngest daughter, Priya, has trouble breathing and suffers from advanced stages of asthma. On one hand, Aleya has no food to feed her family and on the other this prolonged suffering of her daughter was tearing her apart. She prayed for a miracle and it arrived riding on a raft made out of banana trees! Friendship’s Community Medic-Aide Mosammat NurJahan Begum sought Aleya Begum out on her “Banana Raft” to tell her that a medical team would arrive the next day to provide medicine and treatment for the people of the chars (river Islands). She instructed her to bring her daughter to her house first thing the next morning for treatment. That night Aleya Begum could hardly sleep thinking of her daughter’s recovery and the Medic-Aide Nurjahan’s auspicious arrival. The next morning before ten, Aleya took her daughter to Nurjahan’s house to find a medical team of five awaiting her. The paramedics treated Priya and gave her medicines for free. They assured Aleya that her daughter would be fine if given the medicine regularly. On the second day, Priya’s health took a positive turn brightening her spirits. For her mother it meant there was hope once again. Aleya could manage a wry smile in this unfed, weak state and thanked her lucky stars for sending these guardian angels to save her daughter.