For many of us, being able to switch on the TV, scroll through our social media feeds and browse the internet means we are incredibly well informed about the health services available to us and the importance of regular check-ups.
But what if you didn’t have access to these forms of communication?
For many people with disabilities or those living in poverty, whether in remote, rural villages or congested cities, making ends meet is often a daily concern. This means they haven’t got the luxury of time or money to search for information about how they can get the health care they need.
In Bangladesh, we know the best way to make sure no one is left behind is to take the information directly to their doorstep. Enter the miking team!
We met with Mokhter. His eyes were damaged by a cricket ball when he was in school, and he gradually lost his sight. He has been blind since 2003.
His voice echoes out of large megaphone on top of a colourful tuk-tuk, and through the streets of Narsingdi, inviting people to attend one of Sightsavers’ pop-up eye health camps.
“News! Good news, good news, there is good news for all visually impaired people!
“You will be glad to know that an eye camp has been arranged and all people who have eye problems can get their eyes examined there completely free of cost.
“No matter how old you are, no matter who you are, you can get your eyes examined free of cost.
“Those of you who cannot see properly, who have cataract problems, who cannot see distance, I am saying to you, please come quickly.
“Those of you who cannot afford medical treatment and are going blind gradually, please come tomorrow at 9am in the union council office, we have arranged an eye camp for you, where you can get your treatment completely free.”
Scroll around the 360-degree video to see how the team spreads the word.
Fareck, who was born with vision problems, attended an inclusive school supported by Sightsavers. Now with our support, he works for the local hospital and organises the miking activity. Today, he accompanies Mokhter and the driver Ahshanulla as part of a quality check. “This is a new location for us,” he explains. “We don’t know the roads, so I’m helping to guide the driver, and make sure the information is delivered properly, so that people can understand the messages.”
“We distribute leaflets but not everybody can read, so when we do the miking, if local people don’t understand [what’s being said], they stop us and ask more questions about the services.”
Mokhter explains the importance of getting the messaging right: “Some people are very suspicious about eye surgery; they sometimes tell people not to go to the hospital because they will pluck your eyes out.
“I’m stopped frequently by interested people. Many of them ask me questions about the announcement, so I take time to explain to them that doctors from Dhaka will come to visit poor patients.”
Both Fareck and Mokhter have been beneficiaries of Sightsavers’ social inclusion projects, and now they do their part to help their communities. They explain how miking ensures people who often face discrimination, such as women and people with disabilities, aren’t excluded from health care.
“Women get more benefit from the miking because they are often at their house,” Fareck explains. “We try to always organise the screening camp so women can complete their work and come quickly to get their eyes checked.”
Mohkter also runs his own disability welfare organisation which advocates for equal rights. “In our society, disabled people cannot get proper dignity,” he says. “I used to stay in my room and listen to the radio all day. I couldn’t even imagine that I would be able to earn (money). But with training to be a public announcer, I am quite satisfied because I don’t have to beg. Now I can support my life and my family.”
“People in this area know me as a very popular announcer and they know that I have details about all the hospitals and their services.
“Many disabled women, children and people with disabled relatives come to me to know more about how they should seek services from the hospital and how they can apply for a birth certificate and disability certificate. I also let the local politicians know who they are and that they need advice.
“I want to make people aware of disability rights. I want to remove the word disability and I want to continue my work.
“I want to help people.”