Bangladesh: Two years after Cyclone Sidr Public health in emergencies: Hena Acna Basar

Published: 13 November 2009 0:00 CET

The public health in emergencies programme provides training to volunteers in various aspects of emergency assistance in the immediate aftermath of disasters. This includes first aid and basic procedures such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, basic knowledge about common diseases and how to dispose of bodies.

Participants share this knowledge with the community through health information sessions and the provision of basic health care in ‘normal’ times.

Hena Acna Basar, a 32-year-old Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteer from Lota Baria in Barguna District, was able to use this knowledge in several critical situations. The latest one occurred two months ago when she rescued a boy who had just been pulled out of the water.

"I was doing chores and I heard someone crying. Some people were gathered near a pond, using traditional methods to treat my neighbours’ son, Manu, which is wrong. I cleaned his mouth and practised mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," she explains.

"I continued until he started breathing again, but he was still unconscious. I explained to them that it is not necessary to drain water from the stomach, even though that is the traditional way here in Bangladesh.

The boy survived, and later people thanked me. I knew how they felt, because when the cyclone hit in 2007 I was carrying my baby and I lost her in the water. I thought she was dead, but in fact she was alive and I am so grateful - she is now four years old and doing well. I think now I should help others learn these skills so that when a cyclone comes they can save people."

Hena participated in a public health in emergencies training as part of the Cyclone Sidr emergency operation.