Floating hospital brings care to the poorest in Bangladesh

This story was first published on June 20, 2015

THE way basic healthcare is provided to some of the most impoverished people in Bangladesh underwent a sea change in 2002. That was when Ms Runa Khan converted a river barge into the country's first floating hospital.

Today, her organisation, Friendship, works in the most remote and inaccessible islands and riverbanks of northern Bangladesh and the remote coastal belt in the south.

It runs three fully operational hospital­ships which perform orthopaedic and reconstructive operations on board.

The non-governmental organisation also has more than 25 boats and river ambulances.

Some of the challenges she faced in the beginning still remain.

Said Ms Runa, 57: "Funding was always a challenge. Yet the most painful challenge I face daily is when I have to make a decision on who to help and who to leave behind.

"Do I help a young boy in need of expensive heart surgery or do I give hundreds of people their vision back or cure women of cervical cancer?"


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Floating hospital brings care to the poorest in Bangladesh'. Subscribe