Amid the festering heat, the putrid stench of fecal decay is evident as sanitation sludge fuses into the water supply. Widespread unsanitary conditions are pervasive in this environment. Bangladesh’s health care system has plummeted into a degenerative state, Alex Crawford, Michigan International Development Program spokesman said. Doctors are known to perform numerous Caesarian births a day with the same set of instruments and dentists have performed appendectomies.
The Michigan International Development Program, a non-profit group of current and former University students, runs a program pioneering gains for Bangladeshi garment workers to provide them with health care.
Business Prof. Andrew Crawford, founded the program in Oct. 2001 before he died of leukemia. Crawford received no treatment for his disease, his son Alex said, choosing to make a point by channeling the money into the Bangladesh program instead.
“One life is not as valuable as the many others one could save,” Alex said. “Professor Crawford’s treatment cost … totaling as much as $150,000, ensured that more than 10,000 Bangladeshi garment workers received health care for a year’s time,” Alex added.
The students have traveled for the past year, approaching business owners to implement the health care services. The students deal directly with owners of manufacturing facilities to convince them of the need for better care, LSA senior and MIDP volunteer Rowtulo Adebiyi said.
“It is crucial that the owner of the factories understand the grave benefits that health care will provide by investing in their employees that increases output and quality of production,” Adebiyi said. The results from the initial pilot project stand resolute as testament to the program’s success, he added.
“We are getting it done with market-driven solutions to curtail these problems. Our program has shown savings to the owner up 1000 percent and to the worker up well over 500 percent,” Crawford said.
Only six months after the program’s establishment, all operations are overwhelmingly designed, run and instituted by a small and determined nucleus of students. The students’ goal is to connect doctors in the region with factory workers to ensure adequate health service. The group should be a model to other students groups looking to make change, said MIDP Chairman Henry Lin.
The program hopes to help develop skills within the Bangladeshi community to take leading roles in continuing health care provisions. “We are setting the bar for a new degree of service excellence to Third World countries in providing health care for impoverished people,” Adebiyi said.
Bangladesh ranks tied for first with Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world. According to the annual survey by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International, in a civilized society the two most important factors indicating the quality of life are firstly, the protection of life and property and secondly, the dispension of justice. In Bangladesh, both these factors are largely absent. Rampant corruption then becomes the biggest constraint on implementing the program.
“The reality is numbing enough that doctors demand the bribes for admitting the majority of patients. Most poor will never afford these expenses, falling vulnerable to predatory behavior,” Adebiyi added.
The country is making progress toward more transparent dealings with the assistance of the international community. Crawford said globalization and industrialization inevitably affect Third World countries and activities should focus on dealing with the problem this causes. “However, as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress,” Crawford said.
Many Americans condemn industrial companies instead of working with them to make conditions better, Crawford said. Lin added while several other students have joined the group, few have had the resolve to make the commitment it requires. He challenges students to add a “healthy dose of realism to their idealism and see what their group has to offer.”