The Chattogram Hill Tracts of Bangladesh are home to 11 indigenous communities, the majority of whom live in vastly isolated territories.
Unfortunately, these areas have limited access to fundamental social services like healthcare.
The mortality rate is high for diseases primarily treatable in comparatively developed areas.
In 2011, reports published by the ReliefWeb stated that the CHT had the worst health record in Bangladesh. To access the district hospitals, people must travel for days due to a lack of transportation and underdeveloped roads that are very difficult to cross.
Debris from landslides during torrential rain and heavy downpour further blocks the roads, causing people to walk the majority of the way.
In May, around 232 people were admitted to hospitals in a single day due to a massive diarrhoea outbreak in Chattogram. Indigenous communities, such as Chakma, Marma and Lushai, living in remote districts, faced the most brutal blow of the outbreak due to the unavailability of nearby healthcare facilities.
Although less rampant in hilly areas, Chattogram reported numerous dengue cases this year.
Indigenous communities in the CHT often report limited or no access to safe drinking water.
And without it, locals often resort to unsafe options, resulting in illnesses like diarrhoea and typhoid.
The absence of awareness of the contagiosity of diseases is also prominent among the population living in the CHT. Recently, a couple in the Sajek union of Rangamati were severely affected by diarrhoea while visiting other ill relatives.
The unavailability of primary healthcare is causing them to turn to more risky alternative healthcare options, such as spiritual healers, otherwise known as ‘Tantric’. The ‘tantric’ offers a variety of self-made medicines made from local plants, which are sometimes very harmful to patients.
As transportation is rarely available, people affiliated with this sector take advantage of the urgency of patients demanding high fares. The families either have to take a loan or put the children to work to provide money for the bills.
Government supplies take hours or even days to reach these provinces; whatever is delivered is rarely sufficient.
The government had previously launched many campaigns to ensure that more fundamental services reach the minority indigenous communities in Bangladesh. Still, the healthcare sector is yet to see a ray of hope.
To ensure proper healthcare for the tribal population, the government should implement quick and strict enforcement of the existing laws and focus on developing the pathways and infrastructure of the CHT.
Reporter's age: 17 | Dhaka