River ambulance: the 'savior' of Shohag’s life

Shohag, sleeping in peace in his mother's lap, does not know what ordeal he has survived

Sharmin Khatun and Selim Shaikh, a spouse hailed from Char Naralia of Bera Upazila (sub-district) under Pabna district, belongs to the tens of thousands landless farmer of Bangladesh. Sharmin’s parents could not send her to school due to their day to day hardship and had to married her off when she was only 14. For Sharmin’s husband Selim, being a landless farmer and the sole earning member, it was really tough to run his 5-member family.

Sharmin did not face difficulty during her first pregnancy. But, early marriage and constant malnutrition caused severe complication during her second issue. Her mother-in-law suggested not to fed her much so that the fetus in the womb does not grow big which will help in delivering the baby. As a result, Sharmin used to pass out frequently, became pale and delivered a pre-mature baby in the eighth month of her pregnancy. The baby, named Shohag, was also suffering from chronic pneumonia and acute breathing problem since he was born.

Physician support is unlikely available in the remote village. The duty doctor rarely visits the area and often refers patients to Bera Upazilla (sub-district) Hospital which is 20 kilometer away from the char (inner-island). The nearest health service complex is Haturiya Nakaliya Union Health and Family Planning Centre which is five kilometer away by boat and then another three kilometer walking distance.

Immediate Medicare was imperative for Shohag’s survival but his family was facing great difficulties to manage a vehicle to take him to the hospital. Fortunately, Md. Aziz Miya, president of River Ambulance Committee came forward and arranged the community river ambulance (an engine boat which contains first aid and stretcher) for the newborn. This initiative helped the baby to recover within next five days as he was admitted to Bera Upazila Health Complex and treated with proper medication by a child specialist.

"If Shohag was not sent to hospital in time, he would not have survived, said Sharmin", Shohag’s mother. She expressed her gratitude to Social Health and Rehabilitation Program’s (SHARP) river ambulance service and wished that "If the chairman, member and affluent community people join their hands together to finance the ambulance and if we can arrange oxygen too, our pneumonia affected children will get better service."

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