Project start | 2019


Free missions | 9


A survey of the Chandraghona project

Dates and facts

Project start: 2019

Current number of doctors: 2 German doctors

Missions: 25 missions per year are planned

Partner: the Christian Hospital Chandraghona (CHC) is the project’s partner

Framework: The German Doctors support the hospital in Chandraghona, to which they sent doctors with the specialties surgery, anesthesia, and gynecology for a total of 24 months – each doctor spending 2-3 months at the hospital. Our doctors treat patients and also train six native doctors in the above-mentioned specialties.

Mission site:  Chandraghona is located in the so-called Chittagong Hill Tracts on the Karnaphuli River. The CHC is the most important center offering medical care for abound 60,000 members of the Jumma tribe. The difficult-to-reach, craggy region is covered with dense virgin forest and extremely poor, politically instable, and without sufficient medical facilities.

Key aspects: medical care of the indigenous inhabitants of the Hill Tracts region and training of native doctors in the specialties surgery, anesthesia, and gynecology

A survey of the Chandraghona project

Medical care for the poorest of the poor

Our domain in Chandraghona, the Christian Hospital Chandraghona, was founded by British Baptists in 1907. It began as a small health center and, over the years, grew into the most important medical facility in the whole Hill Tracts region. Today it offers general medical, surgical, pediatric, and obstetric care, as well as extensive ante-natal care, in the 100-bed hospital.  The impoverished inhabitants of the Hill Tracts receive free or very inexpensive medical care there. In addition to the clinical work, the hospital has conducted a nursing school for approximately 80 years and also a Community Health Program (CHP) since 1971. This is comparable to our Primary Health Care Program (PHC) in the Philippines and aims at health care provided by the community. Native health workers trained in the CHP offer free basic health care in more than 200 scattered and distant villages. They regularly visit the village inhabitants and explain various aspects of health care, like the national vaccination program, pre- and postpartum care, healthy nutrition, family planning, and treatment of diarrhea, infections, malaria, and other common diseases.

Comparable to our Rolling Clinics on the Philippine islands of Mindoro and Luzon, a mobile health team regularly visits remote Jumma villages and offers diagnostic services for pregnant women, malaria tests, and other investigations. The local health workers encourage the Jumma to attend the mobile consultations or even refer emergencies directly to the hospital. A further important department in the hospital is the Leprosy Unit. It is one of the few places in Bangladesh where patients with leprosy can be treated. Leprosy is considered to be almost eliminated, but is, unfortunately, still prevalent among the impoverished inhabitants of the Hill Tracts.

A survey of the Chandraghona project

Doctors on missions for people in need

We help native doctors, as well as patients, in the Christian Hospital Chandraghona. By intensively training six local doctors in the specialties anesthesia, surgery, and gynecology, we enable them to provide specialist care for their patients on their own within about two years. Broadening their knowledge and abilities should lead to an increased number of paying, middle-class patients. This will provide more income for the hospital. The poor community of indigenous tribes should profit, since the hospital will be able to offer more free treatments when they have sufficient income.

Bangladesh has a national health-care strategy. One of the aims is to provide the entire population with access to high-quality and just health care. It also describes that, above all, around 2.5 million members of ethnic minorities – some 42% of whom live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts – still have no access to basic medical care. The paper describes the difficult access to the region and the necessity of support by aid organizations and private institutions, “Access to the remote areas is difficult for government workers, especially during the rainy season, and access to state facilities is arduous for the inhabitants.” Alternative measures to provide ethnic minorities with better access to the health-care system, including participation by NGOs, are fundamentally desired. Our partnership with the Chandraghona hospital supports the national aims and can be assured of support by the state of Bangladesh. This is relevant for the project’s success in this populous country!

Our work in Chandraghona is partially supported financially by the German government. 

A survey of the Chandraghona project

Aboriginal conditions in the Hill Tracts

Chandraghona is located about 45 kilometers northeast of Chittagong on the Karnaphuli River. The region is, in contrast to the rest of Bangladesh, mountainous, rugged, and covered with dense primeval forest. It is populated by 11 tribes which refer to themselves as Jumma. The Buddhist Chakma and Marma with a total of about 350,000 members are the two largest tribes. The further inhabitants of the Hill tracts are Christians, Hindus, or practice traditional religions. The Jumma practice nomadic agriculture for optimal use of the land. The common local name for this soil-preserving form of agriculture is Jhum, from which the name Jumma for the Hill Tracts tribes stems. A peculiarity is the Mru tribe. They live in houses on stilts in the high mountains and in complete isolation from the other tribes.

The Jumma are largely ignored by the Bangladesh state. The government has settled poor Bengal families in their territory for decades. By giving them the best land, they deprive the Jumma of their livelihood. Aside from displacement by the settlers, the 11 tribes were exposed to violence by the military for a long time. Since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, 10,000s of Jumma have been tortured, raped, and murdered. Many of their settlements were burned down. This turned the 11 tribes into a minority within a few decades. In 1997 the tribe representatives and the government signed a peace treaty, which put an end to the worst atrocities.

However, the Jumma still experience violence even today and are robbed of their land. The medical care in the remote and troubled region is insufficient.

This makes the Christian Hospital Chandraghona especially important for the inhabitants of the Hill Tracts. Most of the hospital employees – and the doctors – come from the Hill Tracts.

German Doctors help worldwide

We believe in the right of every human being to get medical care no matter their origin. Therefore our volunteer German Doctors offer medical treatments in developing countries for the poorest of the poor. Whether people infected with HIV, undernourished children deficiency syndromes or people with chronic diseases, we help everyone who needs help.

Our doctors work during their annual leave or retirement for a period of six weeks and waive any compensation. More than 7000 missions with more than 3200 doctors were completed since 1983.