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31 October, 2021 07:02:38 PM

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Bangladesh will be free from obstetric fistula one day: Dr Iftikher Mahmood

Independent Online Desk
Bangladesh will be free from obstetric fistula one day: Dr Iftikher Mahmood
Dr Iftikher Mahmood, Founder of the HOPE Foundation for Women & Children of Bangladesh. Photo: Courtesy

Obstetric fistula is a common health concern among rural women in Bangladesh. To address this health problem, Dr Iftikher Mahmood who was born in Cox’s Bazar founded the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh to provide proper health services to marginalized women and children and also to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in Bangladesh.

At present, around two million people are taking medical services from its healthcare centres in Cox’s Bazar and adjacent districts. HOPE Foundation is registered as a non-profit organization both in the USA and Bangladesh.

The 58-year-old Bangladeshi American visionary medical practitioner is working to expand its medical services to the masses aiming to free Chattogram division from obstetric fistula by 2030. Let’s know more from him.

After completing your medical studies at Chattogram Medical College, you moved to the US for higher education. So, when did you plan to set up an organization to serve the people? 

I have been thinking about setting up a healthcare organization since when I was a medical student. My father inspired and motivated me to provide services to the poor. To materialize it, I had to establish myself first as a medical professional. So, after my graduation from medical college, I went to the US for higher education and training. Later on, I established the HOPE foundation in 1999.

Is there any specific reason to work for women and children healthcare? 

Yes, when I was growing up in Cox's Bazar, it was my observation that women and children living in villages were the most vulnerable group in terms of getting treatment, education and other basic needs. Women’s health is always related to children’s health. So, I focused on their healthcare facilities.

What’s the achievement regarding your services till now? 

HOPE Foundation built many healthcare facilities and conducted many important health programs since its inception. We also established multiple high standard maternity hospitals and 15 rural birth centres in remote and coastal areas of Cox’s Bazar. We also have been working with the Bangladesh government to provide midwifery services to 47 union health and family welfare clinics in the district. Furthermore, we have set up hospitals and clinics for the Rohingya refugees. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we also established two 50-bed COVID hospitals. 

Since 2012, HOPE has been running a midwifery school in Ramu, Cox's Bazar which is the only non-government midwifery school in the Chattogram division so far. The school has trained over 100 local women to become midwives through a 3-year diploma program. Currently, 50 more students are enrolled in this diploma course.  

HOPE Foundation’s important focus is on the treatment of obstetric fistula. It has been working as a major treatment provider for obstetric fistula in Bangladesh. In partnership with other development agencies and with support from the government, HOPE aims to eliminate obstetric fistulas from all 11 districts of the Chattogram division by the year 2030. At present, the Foundation is setting up another 75-bed hospital to provide high-quality maternity care to the district population and surgical care to obstetric fistula patients. It is also providing training to other providers on how to treat obstetric fistula patients.

Do you have any plans to expand your service area? 

Of course, we have. We want to create a model of good maternity care and expand our services nationwide in collaboration with other organizations. Also, we want to establish new hospitals and clinics in other parts of the country to bring more people under our care.

What’s your present plan to develop healthcare? 

First of all, we are creating a medical model called ‘Golden Chain Care” which entails comprehensive and uninterrupted maternity care.  The midwife and her team coordinate the ‘Golden Chain Care” and will make necessary referrals for complicated pregnancies to higher facilities with the support of emergency ambulance services if needed. This model not only involves the service providers but also involves the family, community members and other health providers in the area. So, pregnant women will always have access to necessary help

What’re you doing to ensure proper medical facilities for remote communities? 

HOPE Foundation believes in quality services at a reasonable cost. So, we have ensured low-cost birth centres in remote areas where trained midwives and their teams are providing high-quality healthcare.

Which challenges are you facing to provide medical services?

From our experience, we have seen that sometimes people in rural areas show unwillingness to receive treatment. We have observed serious reluctance to give birth at health facilities which is a major cause for unwanted maternal and newborn deaths and birth-related complications. So, we first try to counsel them on its importance and then provide medical care. 

What’re your upcoming plans?

Our plans include collaborating with other development organizations around the country to establish more birth centres, maternity hospitals, educational institutions for nursing, midwives, and other allied health professions in other areas of the country based on high needs.

BK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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