Fire strikes Korail slum, community palliative care team responds

Monday, 24 April 2017 Print

Compassion in action as community palliative care team responds to slum fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

At 2:45 am on 16 March 2017, a massive fire struck Korail Slum, the site of 'Compassionate Korail', a palliative care partnership between the local community organisation, the Centre for Palliative Care at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), and the WHPCA.

The fire started in the Taltola area of Korail and within a couple of hours it had engulfed an entire section (no. 2 unit) of the slum.

We heard about fire at 8am which was very shocking for us. By this time, almost two thirds of the slum had been completely destroyed.

Our project staff and beneficiaries were also affected. One of our Palliative Care Assistants (PCAs), 22 patients and 10 volunteers of our project lost everything.

When I was visiting the burned slum area, suddenly one of our patients took my hand and said: "Please do something for us otherwise we will not survive."

Immediately I decided to do something for them. I discussed this with my team and collected some funds and dry food for the affected people. It was a very emotional time for us all.

I communicated with our project lead, Professor Nezamuddin Ahmad, and asked for emergency support.

Instantly he assured me that he could access funds from a local donor for affected slum dwellers.

From 16 to 23 March, Compassionate Korail took responsibility for 32 families, including those of our PCAs, patients and volunteers, and supported them by distributing several items, and arranging dry food, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The next day was a government holiday in Bangladesh, but all members of our team met in Korail to plan our support.

We visited the burned area and planned for one week of emergency support for the families. We distributed some useful household materials such as glass, plastic boxes and a dry food bag, as well as temporary building materials.

The following day, we distributed clothing to affected families and started a medical camp in the slum, not only for our patients, but also all affected slum dwellers.

Our medical team worked by dividing into two groups. One, a nurse-led team, provided basic wound dressing and other general care, while the other, led by a doctor, provided treatment and some essential medicines to those more seriously affected.

By the fourth day after the fire, we had arranged a supply of cooking implements and soap, while continuing our regular support such as dry food and clothing distribution.

The Home Based Palliative Care Team from CPC also visited the slum and worked alongside us. They distributed seven mattresses to families of our patients, as well as 11 pairs of plastic footwear.

A medical team of five doctors and two nurses joined us on 22 and 23 March. A package consisting of a blanket, pillow, bucket and mug was given to 50 families including the 32 families supported by Compassionate Korail.

Our emergency support ended on 23 March, but we ensured that those affected by the fire continued to receive regular support on a priority basis from the Compassionate Korail team.

It was a great lesson for us, because before the fire we had no idea how to face such a crisis moment.

Compassionate Korail have been working in the slum providing community based palliative care services for the older people of this community since 2015, along with CPC and WHPCA.

This pilot project of WHPCA has just been extended for the next two years. The project budget did not cover emergency support to slum dwellers, but it was a very pleasant feeling for us that we successfully managed this situation by collecting local donations.

This indicated that the local people will be able to run a community based palliative care programme through their own support.

We, the Compassionate Korail team, are grateful to the individual local donors and some organisations such as Centre for Palliative Care, BSMMU and Palliative Care Society of Bangladesh (PCSB) for supporting us.

Read the original article on the international edition of ehospice.

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