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Assam's Floating Hospital To Render Medical Services To Islanders

A new floating hospital would visit the islands dotting Assam's Brahmaputra river at least once a month to render medical services//. This has brought in a new ray of hope to these islanders who have been worried about their isolation.

Akha - a boat with medical personnel and supplies - is a unique door-to-door service for the poor inhabitants of the state's islands, including Charikhulia Chapori. Akha, which means 'hope' in Assamese, is the brainchild of the Association for India's Development (AID) - a student group - and the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES), a New Delhi-based NGO.

The NGO was especially sensitive to the vulnerability of those who lived in the rural islands, faraway from modern conveniences, including hospitals with sophisticated equipment.

'Technologically speaking, it is a specially made boat for this purpose. It is also equipped to deal with emergency situations like floods,' said Sanjoy Hazarika, C-NES member and the driving force behind the one-year-old project.

'It has space for on-board treatment of basic health problems and can even take a few emergency cases back to the nearest referral or district hospital whenever needed,' Hazarika, a New Delhi-based columnist and community activist, told IANS.

Akha can accommodate health personnel and professionals. 'This vessel can be turned into a classroom to train paramedics during winters when the water level is too shallow to set sail,' Hazarika added. This specialised boat was funded by prize money from a World Bank competition won by C-NES volunteers and a group of grass-root boat-builders in 2004.

With the India Country-level Development Marketplace award of $20,000 (Rs.900,000), Hazarika and other C-NES workers could realise their dream of treating the unreachable under-privileged sections of the state.

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