South-east Asia: working for health in Kumuli village, Bangladesh

10 February 2006

This feature focuses on three health workers in Kumuli – a small village in Nowabganj, northern Bangladesh.

The health of people in Bangladesh has improved significantly over the last three decades, but many challenges remain. One in 59 women dies in pregnancy or childbirth in her lifetime, and more than five in every 100 babies die before they are 28 days old. Almost half of the children in the country are malnourished. Tuberculosis is common, and malaria is endemic in many parts of the country.

In rural areas like Kumuli, primary health care is provided by 'health assistants', and family planning services are provided by 'family welfare assistants'. These people are responsible for duties typically carried out by nurses in urban areas of the country. One health assistant and one family welfare assistant provide health care to about 5000 people through satellite clinics, outreach immunization centres, and household visits in the community. Once or twice a month, villagers volunteer the use of their homes to be used as satellite clinics. At these clinics, the health workers treat people for diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections, anaemia and intestinal worms. They also provide information and advice on family planning, sanitation, nutrition, immunization, pregnancy and childbirth, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and leprosy.

Photo stories

Mr Tipu Sultan, health assistant

Mrs Sanwara Begum, family welfare assistant

Mr Abul Kashem, porter