India’s First Boat Clinic
The Brahmaputra River runs over 891 km through Assam with vast network of islands and home to the most vulnerable communities in the state. With more than 2.5 million people living on some over 2,500 islands in Assam they represent 8 percent of the total population in the state. For centuries the river has been a source of life for the people of northeast especially Assam. Yet every year due to floods, millions of people are displaced, crops, livestock and properties are destroyed. Health problem are of major concern due the inaccessibility to medical aid.
Most of these islands lack basic infrastructure and services especially in health care. Post the flood event, the major problem faced by people especially those living away from the mainland of Assam is the access to medicines and sustained health care. People had to travel long distances at great cost and risk to get medical attention. The people dwelling among these islands frequently lost pregnant women and children due to lack of access to basic health care.
It was only in June 2004-2005 when Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika the Managing Trustee for the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) launched a unique initiative to tackle the challenges faced by the Island dwellers. The service provided by C-NES comes virtually to their doorstep with the help of dedicated and extremely hard working team of medical personnel.
Under the leadership of Mr. Hazarika the team built a ship called ‘Akha’ which means “A Ship of Hope in a Valley of Flood.” Through this ship they were able to provide mobile health services to the poor and the marginalized communities on the islands in Dibrugarh district. The prime focus for the team was to provide immunization of children, pregnant women and new mothers as well as treatment to vulnerable adult groups. Gradually this concept expanded and Boat Clinics are now operated in 13 districts of the Assam which includes Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Morigaon, Kamrup, Nalbari, Bongaiaon, Barpeta , Bongaigaon and Dhubri. With a total of 15 Boat Clinics operating along the river this concept got the recognition from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF helps the organization in training and capacity building. The project also aims to trained and create awareness on family planning, the importance of sanitation and also establish schools in Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur districts for those who has never been to school or dropped out of it. This outstanding innovation has won the ‘World Bank Award’ for innovation aimed at bridging rural gaps.
The Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) through these Boat Clinics focuses on these following objectives,
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