In Moulvibazar, there are 179 community clinics that provide free basic treatment and medicine. Due to mismanagement, however, many of these clinics were often closed before the Moulvibazar District Policy Forum (DPF) began to address the issue.
“This clinic used to be closed most of the time, but now it is open every day and a significant number of babies are born there in normal deliveries every month,”
says Ahsan Habib, one of the Moulvibazar DPF members referring to Balikandi Community Clinic. After the intervention of the Moulvibazar DPF at a number of clinics, the quality of those clinics has rapidly improved. As a result, people are receiving better services from those clinics now.
The Moulvibazar DPF is working as part of the Platforms for Dialogue (P4D) project to raise people’s awareness of community clinic services, galvanise community clinic management committees into action on their own, and educate the public on the key Social Accountability Tools (SATs). The District Policy Forum is Platforms for Dialogue’s (P4D) newest initiative that works to strengthen civil society and government accountability mechanisms in Bangladesh using four key SATs – Citizen’s Charter (CC), Right to Information (RTI), National Integrity Strategy (NIS), and Grievance Redress System (GRS). A European Union-funded project in cooperation with Bangladesh government’s Cabinet Division, P4D formed DPFs in 12 districts focusing on three crucial issues – quality education, child marriage and health care in community clinics. The DPFs aim to bring together both local government representatives and community leaders for a more collaborative and unified approach toward community development using the key SATs. P4D District Facilitator, Aklima Chowdhury, played a key role in forming the DPF, which is comprised of 20 members including teachers, journalists, local government representatives, MAP, and CSO (Civil Society Organisations) members.
In addition to Moulvibazar DPF’s work on improving community clinic services, the DPF members have organised seminars and workshops (both online and offline) to spread awareness and literacy about Social Accountability Tools (SATs). Moulvibazar DPF first started its work on 15 March 2021 with an orientation programme, and on 14 September 2021, they had a capacity-building training on the SATs. Later, they held a dialogue meeting (15 November 2021), a public hearing (24 November 2021), and different day-observation programmes (RTI Day, Anti-Corruption Day, and Youth Day) where they discussed the four key Social Accountability Tools (SAT) to educate the public on these tools and how they could use them to benefit their community.
To begin, the Moulvibazar DPF engaged the community clinic management committees and community support groups to take action. People learned about community clinic services through the forum’s workshops, and the Civil Surgeon, the district's top health official, started visiting community clinics. With these initial actions, clinic services improved and some clinics that had previously been closed reopened their doors. Moreover, the Community Health Care Providers (CHCP) began attending the clinics more regularly. As a result, in addition to better treatment, the rate of birth canal deliveries has increased from 32% to 48% in the district.
With these changes, not only did the service providers become more sincere about their work, but also patients began to visit the clinics more regularly after the DPF’s intervention. Now, the people of Moulvibazar frequent the community clinics even for minor health problems, be it a headache or fever. Those with major health issues get referred to hospitals by the CHCPs of these clinics.
“DPF Moulvibazar has created a bridge between the service providers and service receivers,”
states Md. Abdur Razzaque, Deputy Director of Family Planning (DDFP), Moulvibazar. Generally, people who are at the receiving end are not able to address their problems because they don’t have a platform from which to speak. In the same way, those who are at the providing end cannot explain themselves and point out the limitations they have for the same reason. However, DPF Moulvibazar has offered a platform through which both parties have been able to communicate with each other, address many issues, and find solutions to them. The DPF has engaged citizens, civil society, and local decision-makers which has strengthened civil society’s ability to influence government policy. Through their dialogues and forum meetings, the DPF has also encouraged the practice of accountability and prioritised effective representation of citizens’ interests.
Moving forward, Nazmul Islam Muhib, the President of Moulvibazar DPF, comments,
“this is just the beginning of a great change that is going to take place in Moulvibazar, and we, the Moulvibazar DPF, have initiated this. I believe the community clinics will keep on improving even when our project ends.” In the same vein, Md. Abdur Razzaque, Deputy Director of Family Planning (DDFP), Moulvibazar, asserts that, “the Moulvibazar DPF’s work is the inception of something big as they have helped us overcome many obstacles related to our community clinics for more favourable outcomes.”
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.