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  • Kay Sandberg

Challenges of Building a Field Hospital in a Rohingya Refugee Camp from A Volunteer's Perspective

It used to be a forest on the migratory path of 10 herds of elephants. Now it is bare and crowded with nearly a million Rohingya refugees, approximately 75% of them women and children. Its hills and valleys are covered with makeshift shelters, wells capped with hand pumps, and red and bleu plastic or sheet metal latrines. Small refugee businesses have popped up here and there to sell to other refugees products that complement the humanitarian assistance provided by international organizations. (Photos forthcoming)


Interspaced among those shelters are semi-permanent structures used by humanitarian organizations to distribute supplies, provide health services, safe spaces for children and women, or simply information about what to find where. The camps are divided into 41 settlements and zones. The Hope Foundation Field Hospital is located in Zone AA, near the northern entrance of the camps.


This is the project I am involved with as a volunteer with Global Force for Healing of Ashland, Oregon (www.globalforceforhealing.org) and their partnership with Hope Foundation for Women & Children of Bangladesh (www.hopeforbangladesh.org). Hope’s Field Hospital is operating already in tents while construction of more permanent facilities is underway. The outpatient section is already providing care to about 400 to 500 patients a week including many women of childbearing age and their children. Hope refers complications to other hospitals in the camps and Cox’s Bazar, including their own hospital.


Now, the challenge faced by the Hope Foundation staff is to carry out its regular duties at the Hope Foundation Hospital in town, while completing the construction of the Field Hospital in the camps. This has to be done before the beginning of the monsoon season, expected to start end of March.The challenge for the team is to remain focused in the middle of conflicting demands and to keep track of priorities. To help the team, Christina Kelly, a recent volunteer for the Hope Foundation team, and I established the bill of quantities for all the remaining buildings and infrastructure. We also identified all steps required to complete the construction of each building and infrastructure.


The Foundation is aiming for March 10 inauguration of the new buildings.Faced with this important challenge, the Hope Foundation management allocated all its available resources to win this race, including those engaged in the construction of its other important ongoing project linked to its hospital in town. Once completed, this Field Hospital will have 20 beds for women, 10 beds for men and 10 beds for children, as well as a communicable disease isolation ward. It will be a 24/7-referral health facility with a specialization in labor & delivery and reproductive health, including family planning and services for newborns and infants.


Some of the Bangladeshi midwives who are working in the camps were recently trained by other Global Force for Healing volunteers on “Helping Mothers Survive Postpartum Hemorrhage and PreEclampsia/Eclampsia, the two leading causes of maternal deaths”. Meet one of the midwives, Molly pictured here with Dr. Bryan and his wife, Paula Sohl, two other members from Ashland. The team of midwives cover women’s and newborn health needs 24/7, out of a profound dedication to their profession and Rohingya people. (Last paragraph added by Kay Sandberg, blog editor and Global Force or Healing Director)

Editor's Note: Coming soon--photos of the field hospital now being built

Heartfelt THANKS to Richard Jacqout for this blog and his tremendous volunteer support over the last month! Ditto for his Nurse Practitioner wife, Sudee--stay tuned for more posts

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Global Force for Healing is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization registered in the United States. EIN: 80-0739258. 

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