Bangladesh: Working Around StrikesStory From a STOP Team Volunteer in the Field
Story From a STOP Team Volunteer in the Field
As soon as we arrived in Dhaka, we have been plagued with hartals (strikes) which shut down the city. No cars travel during hartals, but rickshas (bicycle driven passenger vehicles) are allowed to operate. There was a hartal this past Thursday, and we traveled by ricksha to our meeting. It was actually quite fun without the congestion of cars on the road.
Each of us has been assigned to two districts and will work with the surveillance medical officer responsible for this area. I have been assigned to Kurigram and Lalmonihat districts in the Rajshahi Division. This division is one of the largest and is in the northwest corner of the country. It is primarily agricultural (wheat, rice) and is the center of the silk industry. I am impressed with the roads here, which are well paved. My two districts are considered to be “hard to reach” areas. The Lonely Planet guidebook does not even mention them.
I was scheduled to fly to my division last Saturday. However, yet another hartal was planned for Saturday. Fortunately, the hartal was only scheduled for half the day. Exactly at noon, cars appeared on the road, and I was whisked to the airport in time for my 1 p.m. flight.
The surveillance medical officer had scheduled a workshop to strengthen surveillance and routine immunization for one of my districts on Sunday. So, I hit the ground running and spoke to the participants about the importance of surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and their role in polio eradication. Later that day, we did a 60-day follow-up of an AFP case. The child ran away from us as we approached, so it was not a case of clinical polio.
The next day I went to Romari, a sub-district, which is a char (island). I traveled by boat for three hours and then by motorcycle to the health clinic. I only saw one car, the ambulance, while there. The SMO and I gave an orientation on AFP to the nurses and visited an outreach immunization clinic. We then traveled to the Indian border through paddy fields by motorcycle. The sub-district health officer is doing a great job providing services considering the obstacles in his way (shortage of manpower, hard to reach villages).
Hartals were scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday so we traveled back to Dhaka. I'm not sure if I will have e-mail access while in the field. So, I wanted to give you an update while I was in the city.