When healthcare was out of their reach
The ‘Saporis’ or the riverine islands of the Brahmaputra in Assam are the pieces of land that are built, reshaped and destroyed by the course of the mighty river. The people residing on these islands can only access the cities and mainlands through ferries and country boats. Most of the islands are devoid of electricity, clean drinking water, schools and healthcare facilities. But almost 10% of Assam’s population dwells in these Saporis.
One incident changed it all
It was in 1996, the news of a pregnant woman dying on a Sapori because she missed a ferry to go to the city, reached the ears of academic journalist Sanjoy Hazarika. Hazarika was moved by the story and he tried to devise a solution to this problem. In 2004, he came up with the idea of Boat clinics that reaches the Sapori dwellers to provide them necessary healthcare facilities as they struggle to reach the cities.
His idea got rewarded by World Bank and he received an innovation award. The Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES), a trust founded by Hazarika in 2000, won the prize and was given $20,000. A year later, a wooden boat called MV Akha, made with that money was sent to Dibrugarh, for the Saporis on the Brahmaputra. That was just the beginning. Today, 14 such boats commissioned by C-NES, ply across 13 districts in Assam, providing healthcare facilities to over 1.5 million people. It was made a public-private partnership in 2008 by the National Health Mission. The funds are now entirely taken care by the state government. Every month these boats reach out around 20,000 Sapori residents who don’t have any other hope of getting medical help.
The initiative reminds us all what one person can do to change things for good. Awareness and empathy towards our surroundings and the issues it faces can spur any and every individual to take up social causes and provide solutions for the same. Hazarika was the one in this case, let us all get inspired by Hazarika and bring the change we want to see.