It’s a long, long journey : Accessibility to quality health care

Monday 4 February 2019


Sharmin is a first time mother, residing in the remote hard to reach wetlands of Bangladesh. Her 45-day old newborn, Raisa had cold and slight fever for the last 2 to 3 days. Sharmin noticed a drastic change in the newborn. Raisa was unable to breastfeed, had rapid breathing, her cough and cold deteriorated radically. Raisa’s chest was indrawn as she tried to breathe. Inexperienced and worried, Sharmin went to the nearest primary level health center- Community Clinic. The Community Healthcare Provider at the clinic assessed the newborn and was able to identify symptoms of severe pneumonia.  Sharmin was referred to a higher level facility, the Upazila Health Complex for treatment of Pneumonia, which was a four to five hours’ commute altogether and that too a very difficult one.

To reach the Upazila Health Complex, Sharmin with her newborn had to walk to the main road where she took a three wheeler rickshaw as she crossed the narrow mud pathways to reach the boat station. There is no other alternative transport to the Health Complex except by boat. In some instances, the boat is not available at the station, in which case one has to wait for long hours till the commute is resumed. However, Sharmin got lucky and was able to get onto a small wooden boat.

Once on the other end of the river, Sharmin took another three wheeler ride to the Health Complex. This long journey made Raisa even more fatigued as she struggled to breathe. Raisa was admitted and received treatment for pneumonia. The entire experience had severe cost implications on the family who only earn merely a $100 every month. Apart from financial implications, Sharmin had to do the long commute to the health complex twice every single day as she had to maintain household chores as well.

Each year, many children like Raisa and many families just like hers go through a similar crisis due to unavailability of diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia. Save the Children works to improve access and quality of pneumonia case management at the community level by training and supporting the Community Clinics and health center staff to provide pneumonia treatment as per national protocol.