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Pathfinder Study to Inform Health Systems Strengthening Investments in Flood-Prone Areas of Bangladesh

Photo: Pathfinder Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Climate change has made flooding during the monsoon season in Bangladesh more severe and erratic—leaving health systems unprepared to serve communities through disasters in flood-prone areas of the country.

Pathfinder Bangladesh shared findings from its recent study on the ability of health facilities to withstand and provide services through climate-related shocks and stressors at an event organized jointly by Pathfinder and the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Climate Change and Health Promotion Unit. Study findings will inform investments in strengthening health systems for climate and disaster resilience in disaster-prone districts of Bangladesh through multisectoral collaboration among the government, development partners, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and civil society.

Flash floods in Bangladesh impacted millions of people in nine northeastern districts in 2022. Photo: Pathfinder Bangladesh

Pathfinder assessed the resilience of 297 health facilities in Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Sylhet, and Sunamganj. These four regions experienced some of the worst floods in 2022—when nearly 500,000 people were displaced from their homes. During the 2022 floods, 59% of community clinics, 75% of rural dispensaries, 33% of union health and family welfare centers, 20% of upazila health centers, and all mother and child welfare centers were closed—with closures ranging from 10 to 180 days.  

The study shows that 98% of health facilities in disaster-affected areas lack the capacity to provide services during monsoon floods or cyclones, with 97% lacking alternative electricity supply systems. While the 1.5 times the number of clients visit health centers during disasters, 93% of the facilities are not prepared to offer 24-hour services, 53% do not have a two-month stock of essential supplies and medicines, and 96% experience floods inside of the facilities.

“While progress of the health sector in Bangladesh is driven by a robust healthcare network, it turns out that this network is ineffective during disasters,” said Mahbub Ul Alam, Country Director of Pathfinder Bangladesh. “Newborns, pregnant women, the elderly, and adolescents are at an increased risk during disasters.”

Emphasizing the need to leverage the talent, wisdom, and youth in Bangladesh, Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin, President of the Bangladesh Medical Association, said “the government should carefully consider the findings and recommendations of the study.”

Pathfinder continues to contribute to resilient health systems in Bangladesh that ensure quality healthcare service for everyone, particularly pregnant women and adolescent girls, in disaster-prone areas through its Dishari project.

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