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Desperate Nurses in Bangladesh Stage Hunger Strike

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In Bangladesh, there are four doctors for every nurse.

According to the World health organisation there should be at least three nurses posted against a doctor.

But in Bangladesh there is only one nurse per eight beds.

While thousands of well trained nurses cannot find work.

This week they reached the breaking point and took to the streets, staging a hunger strike demanding immediate change.

They threatened to set themselves on fire in if their demands weren’t met.

Our reporter in Bangladesh, Ric Wasserman has the story.


150 nurses, most with many years experience had been quietly staging a hunger strike for the past seven days.

No one one seemed to care.

In three orderly lines, wearing bright saris, many sit listlessly, a dozen with saline drips keeping them alive.

Her husband carriers her away to the hospital, where 40 nurses have already been admitted for treatment.

The nurses say they’ve almost gone as far as they can.

If their demands aren’t met by day’s end, they’re threatening to douse themselves with gasoline and go up in flames.

“Look at us. Look what we have to do. I’ve been trained to care for people, comfort them. Keep people alive. Even politicians. But how do they treat us? We’ve been here for seven days, starving ourselves. All we want is to have a job. But they ignore us.”

The nurses are demanding batchwise recruitment and employment based on seniority instead of on a district quota.

In Bangladesh, There are four doctors for every nurse.

Most of the nurses on hunger strike are women, but there are male nurses as well.

Iqbal Hossein Sabuj is one of them. He’s the secretary general of the Bangladesh Diploma Unemployed Nurses Association.

“We want to be given jobs based on our experience. I’ve been working as a nurse for nine years, took ill, and when I returned I had no job. Now they want me to pay a bribe to get my job back.”

It’s now one hour until the deadline for mass self-immolation and the atmosphere gets tense.

Joint Secretary for Hospitals and Nursing Omar Faroque has just shown up.

Trying to convince the strikers to quit, an argument breaks out. He turns away, slips into a car and drives off. A group of nurses leaves in a rickshaw, hoping to approach the Health Minster.

Women police are ordered to form a ring around the group. One wipes a tear from  her eye. I ask her how it feels be standing here.

'It’s sad. These are my sisters. We need them desperately in the hospitals’ she says.

Suddenly heavily armed policeman step closer to the protesters.

Reporters from the local television stations show up. The situation is tense.

It’s 4 pm, and the deadline has run out.

Then a representative from the strikers says he just received a call. The Minister of Health has promised to begin an appointment process in less than fifteen days.

But there is no joy among the hunger striking nurses here. This group represents five thousand nurses who want jobs.

They’ll be back in fifteen days to finish their protest, in flames if necessary unless their demands, signed the Health Minister, are met.  

Ric Wasserman will continue to follow the hunger striking nurses of Bangladesh and take a look at what’s going wrong in the health system. We will bring you his reports in the coming weeks on Asia Calling.

បាន​បន្ទាន់​សម័យ​ចុង​ក្រោយ​បំផុត ( ថ្ងៃច័ន្ទ ទី22ខែ​កុម្ភៈឆ្នាំ2010ម៉ោង11:07 )