The Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship provides vital medical assistance to more than two million people living in communities isolated by the annual monsoon flooding in the most deprived region of Bangladesh.
The Emirates Airline Foundation financed the twin-hulled vessel, granting in excess of $750,000 to Friendship, the registered NGO which runs the ship.
In addition, the foundation funds the salaries of a full-time team of doctors, nurses and support staff, plus annual operating expenses, estimated to total $150,000.
Emirates has also signed a management contract with Friendship for the boat which covers a 250-kilometre stretch along the River Bhramaputra, one of the most medically neglected and inaccessible areas of Bangladesh, helping people living on more than 400 small islands.
The well-appointed mobile hospital can house 30 to 40 patients in an emergency and is equipped with chambers for doctors, primary health care facilities, two operating theatres, two eight-bed wards, paediatric and gynaecology units, a dental room, a pathological laboratory, an X-ray room and an ophthalmic room.
A dispensary onboard distributes free medicine and the registration room can accommodate up to 24 staff and eight visiting doctors.
Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline, said: “The communities in northern Bangladesh are in dire need of basic medical facilities to deal with the unforgiving conditions in which they live. Emirates is pleased to be able to reach out to the people of Bangladesh with this project.
“This is the Emirates Airline Foundation’s flagship project in Bangladesh and we hope to be able to do a lot more in the years to come with the kind support of our customers who donate generously onboard.
“We also have a bank of donated Skywards Miles which we use to sponsor tickets for doctors who visit this project and other humanitarian causes around the world.”
He added: “We take our corporate social responsibility very seriously, and we find reaching out through the Foundation is a very rewarding way of showing we care.”
This is the second such ship that is coming into operation in the northern chars of Bangladesh, where 40 per cent of the population is estimated to be under 15 years of age.
The other project, the Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital Ship which launched in 2002, also receives volunteer doctors from all over the world sponsored by the Emirates Airline Foundation. These doctors donate their free time and holidays to work on the ship in addition to providing health education to the masses.
Runa Khan, Executive Director of Friendship, said: “This new ship will help us in our task of reaching out to the poorest of the poor in this region with the best of health facilities.
“Friendship is thankful to Emirates for taking this project under its wing. We cannot do enough for these people who are struggling to stay alive in the worst conditions possible and need all the help we can get. We expect to treat up to 60,000 patients a year on the Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship – 85 per cent of the beneficiaries are women and children.
“Their suffering is unbearable for them and unacceptable for us. We are providing them with general medical care, mother and child care and surgical interventions, in addition to teaching them the basics of hygiene, nutrition and disease prevention.”