By the Brahmaputra ( Vol: 59)
(January – March 2023)
C-NES’ Board Meeting was held on January 7th 2023 at the Regional Office, Guwahati, chaired by Sanjoy Hazarika Managing Trustee. Trustees Gopal Pillai, Prof. Mahfuza Rahman, and Patricia Mukhim joined the meeting online. Advisor Dr.Milan Barooah was present along with members of PMU, C-NES.
Among other issues, Programme Manager Ashok Rao and APM Mousumi Dowerah updated the Board about the challenges in boat repairs. Communications Officer informed that repairing of the Dhemaji Boat “Shahnaz” has been completed and Dibrugarh Boat “Akha” is undergoing overhaul. She updated us that after lying unused for over two years, the Dhemaji Boat Clinic, repaired and renovated with funds from Oil India Limited was delivering service since December 2022. She also informed members about progress in the renovation and building of Akha, C-NES’ first boat clinic, with funds donated by BCPL. Akha was also lying in a state of disrepair since 2019. The entire process of fund release, monitoring and site visits where the boat is being built is under DC’s administration.
PM informed Majuli BC was also undergoing repairs while APM informed that repairing of main body of the Sonitpur Boat Clinic was completed in Aug’22, NHM funds were awaited for the hull, the budget for which was submitted in Sep’22 along with the camp budget.
An update on the Progress on Hospital Ship was given by CryptoIndia’s Divyarth Bansal. CryptoIndia and Give India has supported the revived project. A presentation on the Hospital Ship was made on behalf of the builders P Das & Co, by Ravi Deka who mentioned that all safety checks including fire safety were ensured as also medical waste disposal properly planned. There would be a boat crew of 9-10 members and the Ship would accommodate as many 32 medical staff. Labour room, recovery room were all properly planned. There would be eight full time berths. Supplementary remarks were made by PM on the new boat clinics being built for the HS by the same funders.
The PM updated the members about the upcoming C-NES project Maternal Health with Population Council Consulting (PCC) for a period of 3 years. Another upcoming C-NES project will be “Riverine Study’ supported by APPI project across three districts of Barpeta, Dhubri and Majuli on climate change impacts on char populations, local adaptations, livelihoods, agricultural challenges and displacement on riverine communities The project will work with APPI partners but also focus on villages where C-NES has conducted health care programmes for several years.
An Orientation Workshop for Research Team of Azim Premji supported C-NES’ The Riverine Study was organized on 24th January 2023. Sanjoy Hazarika, Team leader and Managing Trustee, C-NES provided an overall introduction to the Study and Workshop, underlining the extensive changes visible in the Brahmaputra. These were leading to wide-ranging stress on communities which lose homes, property and income every year, especially on women and children. The study, supported by APPI, sought to examine how people in the islands and riverbank/riverine areas were coping with a range of issues including erosion and migration due to climate uncertainty. The short time research will be a scoping effort which would focus on factors that reflected basic conditions of vulnerability — climate change, status of livelihood linked to agriculture, erosion, health status and connectivity. There would be a look at the scale and reach of government interventions. There was a need to enter these villages and take a feedback. “There is a need to capture people’s narratives,” Hazarika said.
An overall introduction to C-NES was given by Communications Officer Bhaswati Goswami who spoke of its work since its inception in 2000, the various studies it had conducted as well as interventions on the environment, gender issues, media fellowships besides the ongoing health outreach programme through the boat clinics.
Sharing his thoughts, Pradyut Bhattacharjee, Independent Development Consultant, said that this study would fill a gap as few such studies had been undertaken on the chars or river islands. Much has depended on anecdotal references. People-centric research was needed –for health, education, child marriage, social issues and migration. Good data from the villages will provide authentic information for sustainable intervention. Examples where communities have been contributing and taking initiatives on their own for development would also be visible through this study. It could give a positive direction to change.
Prof Mahfuza Rahman, former Head, Dept of Geography, Cotton College in her remarks, added that as an academician and field worker she has certain observations of the char areas. Unlike Bangladesh, where she has had the opportunity to visit such islands, the inhabitants of the Assam char islands “lack aspiration”. Erosion, child marriage linked to illiteracy has aggravated the inherent challenges here aggravated by gender discrimination and poor status of women. Moreover, migration has increased and society had undergone changes. She said that ecosystem service is changing gradually due to climate change and there is a need to understand how people are adapting to this.
Resource person Dr Parthajyoti Das, Progamme head WATCH, at Aaranyak, said that ‘our mission has to be fulfilled after the field visit”. The life style of the people, how they survive and adapt with climate change as also their capacity to survive, vulnerability and resilience are crucial factors to consider. People in river islands are entirely depend on the natural eco system so their life style is healthier. We need to learn how have they adjusted and adapted with traditional knowledge. It is imperative to listen to the people patiently and hear their stories before documenting them.
Swapna Das, District Programme Officer, Boat clinic, Barpeta district, Mehboob Alam Hazarika and Sultan Nekib, District Programme Officer of Boat Clinics, Unit I and II Dhubri district, spoke on health issues and challenges in chars, floods and village communities Presentations were made by Barpeta and Dhubri researchers on their visits to chars,along with details about their interaction with the communities, leaders and preliminary findings.
MSF Team Visit
A four member team from MSF led by Dr Farhat Mantoo visited the C-NES regional office on 12th January 2023 and interacted with the senior members.They also visited the Morigaon Boat Clinic conducted health camp accompanied by Associate Programme Manager, Mousumi Dowerah. An international, independent medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare.
A consultative meeting on health data analysis needs in NE India by Population Council Consulting (C-NES’ partner in Assam) Rasta and USAID was held at Radisson Blu Hotel, Guwahati on February 10th, 2023. Communications Officer, Bhaswati Goswami represented C-NES at the meeting It needs mention that C-NES has started a project on Maternal Health with Population Council Consulting (PCC) for a period of 3 years in early 2023
The objective of the meeting was to brainstorm questions that are important from Health and Nutrition program and policy angles for the region. RASTA, in collaboration with local academic institutions of the region, will develop research papers to address the identified research gaps. The consultation also aimed to explore pathways to extend RASTA’s work to inform policies and programmes and form partnership with academic/research institutions in the northeast region of the country. The discussion was structured around four thematic areas: Ending Preventable Maternal and Child Mortality, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Choices, Nutrition and Communicable/Non-Communicable Diseases, and Adolescent Health.
The meeting was attended by several senior government officials including Mission Director and State Program Leads from National Health Missions, State Health Societies, and Department of Women and Child Development of five states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram; the Regional Director and whole team of Regional Resource Centre (NE Region) of NHSRC; representative from UNICEF, USAID, and WHO along with the Regional and State Leads of program and research from development partners such as Armman, IPAS, Jhpiego, KHPT, and Piramal Foundation; and senior academicians from IIPS, ICMR, TISS, and leading universities.
APPI supported Research team visits Boat Clinic camp
The Research Team of Azim Premji supported C-NES’ The Riverine Study led by Sanjoy Hazarika, Team leader and Managing Trustee, C-NES, Pradyut Bhattacharjee, Independent Development Consultant, C-NES Advisor, Dr Milan Barooah,Adviser, Programme Manager Ashok Rao and officials from the Azim Premji Foundation visited a health camp conducted by the Barpta Boat Clinic Unit II on 6th Feb 2023. The project will underline the extensive changes visible in the Brahmaputra.
From the Field:
A meeting on health issues of adolescent girls was organized by the Nalbari Boat Clinic team at Char Anchalik ME Madrassa,Na-Para Pam under Mukalmua BPHC of the district supported by the National Health Mission, Assam. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has emphasized expanding awareness as the key to interventions to improve and maintain their health for girls in the age group of 10-19 years, including nutrition, reproductive health and substance abuse. The key principle of this program is adolescent participation and leadership, inclusion, and gender equity.
Niti Ayog team at Barpeta health camp
A team from NITI Ayog accompanied the Barpeta Boat Clinic Unit II to a regular health camp organized at Jahanara ghola island village under Mowamari sub centre on January 10, 2023.
Health Officials visits Morigaon Boat Clinic
Joint Director of Health Services, Morigaon District, Dr. Phani Pathak accompanied the Boat Clinic team to Goribor Char for Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND). He was joined by Dr. Dulal Medhi ( CM& HO,CD) Dr.Chitoranjan Haldar (SDM&HO) Lahorighat BPHC, Dr A Salam. I/c Moirabari CHC. The officials actively took part in the awareness session on early marriage, immunization, institutional delivery and interacted with villagers regarding various health related issues. On VHND, villagers can interact freely with the health personnel and obtain basic services and information. They can also learn about the preventive and promotive aspects of health care, which will encourage them to seek health care at proper facilities.
On 28th February 2023, the Nalbari Boat Clinic successfully motivated four women beneficiaries to adopt permanent family planning through sterilization.
Successful FP Initiative
Along with reducing the high Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality Rate in Assam, reducing the high Total Fertility Rate is an important focus area of C-NES’ Boat Clinic health initiatives under NHM. After constant awareness sessions by the health teams in thirteen districts across Assam, the people are becoming aware of the importance of FP (family planning) and have started using different methods, observed the health team members. Many women show interest in inserting IUCD to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Accordingly the teams plan to organize IUD insertion camps in the chars by bringing experts and experienced nurses. Awareness campaigns on health and hygiene, family planning, safe drinking water and sanitation are regularly organized. Motivating isolated communities under the influence of superstition and religions which do not encourage family planning is not an easy task for the health teams working, as they are, under challenging condition.
Health camp and RI at Laika-Pomua conducted by Tinsukia Boat Clinic- April 2023
A regular health camp along with an awareness session for school students on sanitation and hygiene being conducted by the Dhemaji Boat Clinic at Nalbari Hajong. March 2023
The boats need at least one major annual set of repairs so that the safety component is not compromised. Boat repairs take long and major repairs can only be done during the dry months of winter when camps are conducted with the help of smaller country boats.
Boat Clinic Shahnaz servicing Dhemaji in upper Assam has been repaired supported by Oil India Ltd. The Boat donated by eminent columnist Swaminathan Aiyar was lying unused for over two years, and has started delivering service from December 2022 post repair.
“Akha” undergoing a major overhaul
C-NES first Boat Clinic Akha made from funds won from a World Bank contest way back in 2004 and which has been delivering service to the remore Dibrugrah island villages was also lying unused for want of repairs and fund shortage since 2019. Renovation and building of Akha, has been made possible with funds donated by BCPL, The entire process of fund release, monitoring and site visit where the boat is being built, is under the DCs administration.
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