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Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital


Working with the Friendship charity, Unilever Bangladesh sponsored the complete transformation of a French oil-barge into a comfortable residential boat with proper amenities for medial procedures to serve remote char communities.

Program goals

The inhabitants of the northern riverbank and areas of Bangladesh are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the world. Generally in developing countries, poor or lack of access to affordable, quality primary healthcare, and the availability of accurate diagnosis and treatment along with safe and effective medicine remain limited. In the chars, lack of basic infrastructure, health awareness, malnutrition, and personal hygiene makes conditions worse. Launched in 2002, the 38 metre Lifebouy Friendship Hospital floats up and down the 'char' regions of Bangladesh with a full team of medical experts and a well stocked dispensary to support the char communities.

Key program components

Friendship has developed a three-tier health service model to serve the remote char communities of Bangladesh. This includes the floating hospitals, satellite clinics, and Friendship Community Medics (FMCs).

Floating Hospitals

The Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital (LFH) is Friendship's flagship programme and was initiated by Friendship in 2001 with the aim to provide essential primary healthcare services to isolated char and riverbank-based communities in northern Bangladesh. It currently operates in the remote char areas of Jamuna River.

In November 2008, Friendship launched a second floating hospital, Emirates Friendship Hospital (EFH), to serve the char communities. Now, with 2 floating hospitals, LFH provides regular on board primary and secondary healthcare services. It also organises specialised health camps every month to provide advance secondary healthcare. Local and international doctors volunteer their time to perform medical surgeries at the hospital.The hospital boat provides an array of on-board facilities, including a patient observation ward, a gynecological and obstetrics room, an antenatal check-up clinic, a small surgery for minor operations, a pathological lab, and dental surgery facilities.

At Friendship's hospital ships, healthcare services are free other than a registration fee, which for first-time female visitors are BDT 5 and males BDT 10. For follow-up visits, the fees are BDT 3 and BDT 5 for female and male visitors, respectively. This is a token amount, which is charged because Friendship believes this fosters accountability, and that people value goods and services that they pay for, and have an ownership over.

The services including different surgeries cost anywhere between BDT 100 to BDT 17000, however, the services are provided free. In addition to providing curative services, the hospital has a dedicated health education team. The team is responsible for running much needed education programmes on basic health issues, such as nutrition, sanitation and safe motherhood.

Satellite Clinics and Friendship Community Medics

In addition, Friendship operates Satellite Clinics to bring primary healthcare closer to the community and has also recently introduced the Community Medic Programme, ensuring that every community has access to medical support. The FMCs are connected with the satellite team, who are in turn connected to the hospital boat. FCMs, who are from the chars where they provide service, are trained at the outset and then assisted for 5 years through continuous training and adequate medicines. After five years, the FCMs will be a trained group of locals remaining in and providing service to their communities.

In 2011, Friendship awarded as best NGO in Gaibandha district where LFH played an important role. Friendship served 270,074 clients in 2009 and 153,012 clients in 2010. 1,228,538 clients were served between December 2001 and December 2010.