Providing relief at the mobile clinic in Bangladesh

By Angela Hill

Even in the heat, the woven bamboo siding on the Canadian Red Cross mobile medical clinic in Kutupalong camp keeps it cool inside.

Sherry Humphrey, a registered nurse, sits next to her translator on a short red stool as the pair works out why Halima came to the clinic.Sherry Humphrey, a registered nurse from Cochrane, Alberta, sits next to her translator on a short red stool as the pair works out why Halima came to the clinic.
Sherry asks a question, waits for the translation, watches as Halima thinks carefully before answering, which is then translated back to English.
Halima says she feels like she has worms in her stomach. Sherry checks it’s not a translation error. Does she feel like she has worms or does she have worms? She has them. It’s a simple fix with medication that she receives on the spot.
It is one of many conditions that are common in the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh, alongside skin and respiratory infections.
“We give them medical aid that they wouldn’t get if we weren’t there,” Sherry said.
Every day the team walks into the clinic carrying medications and first aid equipment, and people start lining up. Mothers carry their children, some still and stoic as they wait, others wiggling in their arms. There are elders, children, pregnant women, and middle-aged men. Like a clinic in Canada, patients are triaged with pregnant women and small children being a priority. Tents provide some shade while they wait.
For the team knowing there is that much need can feel overwhelming.
“One of the biggest challenges is sometimes feeling inadequate in what we can take to them, we know we can get them back to a higher level of care but we sometimes struggle a bit that we do have a limitation on what we can do,” Sherry said.
Inside the clinic there is a long folding table that quickly becomes the pharmacy and workbench. Each of the clinicians sits in a corner to see their patients, but often meet to discuss treatment suggestions or to jury-rig a solution.
Sherry talks about some of the creative ways they have worked around not having the same equipment as they do in Canada. With treatment of some respiratory issues, in Canada an aerochamber would be used. It’s a wide plastic tube that allows people to breath in the medication from an inhaler. In Bangladesh, the team learned to use duct tape and plastic water bottles to create what they need.
They are an international team. Sherry works alongside doctors, nurses, midwives and translators from Canada, Philippines and Bangladesh. A big piece of the work of the Canadian Red Cross is supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society doctors, who will remain in the country long after Sherry has gone. These are the Faces of Humanity.
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