Monday, February 21, 2011

Dr. Kaosar Afsana from BRAC : Let Us Walk Together in Unity and Love

Dr. Kaosar Afsana, guest speaker for Consultation Day, is the Associate Director of the Health Programme for BRAC. Dr. Afsana, born and raised in Bangladesh, gave some background on the country of 150 million people, of which 32-35% live below the poverty line. She explained that Bangladesh is “slowly turning into a middle income country” and is on track to achieve MDGs 4 and 5. She noted that Bangladesh is often “presented to the world as suffering from a lack of wealth, healthcare, and education, and from natural disasters, religious extremism, and women’s subjugation.” Yet Dr. Afsana and fellow Bangladeshi activists “believe in hope and optimism,” and she related a quote from Gandhi, in which he addresses women: “let us walk together in unity and love.”

BRAC has achieved significant reductions in infant and maternal mortality rates through its community health, education, and empowerment initiatives. The organization uses mobile phones (according to Dr. Afsana, 55% of Bangladeshis have them) to improve maternal and infant health care. Through mobile phones, trained local community health workers can identify pregnant women to receive further care, transmit their consultations with patients to doctors, diagnose complications, and monitor birth outcomes. The program, called M-health, works in concert with the overall Manoshi program, which establishes “women-friendly” birthing centers where atmospheres of privacy and dignity reign. BRAC cooperates with government hospitals and refers patients to them when needed. Beyond improving access to health care for these women, says Dr. Afsana, the program also empowers them because they feel safer, healthier, and “taken care of.”

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