A help­ing hand

MAK­ING HEALTH­CARE MORE AC­CES­SI­BLE TO VUL­NER­A­BLE COM­MU­NI­TIES

New Straits Times - - Heal - Na­dia Badarudin

EARLY in the morn­ing of April 28 this year, a beau­ti­ful baby girl was born at the re­cently set up Ma­ter­nity Health Cen­tre in Phnom Penh, Cam­bo­dia.

Kan­dura is not only the first-born of her par­ents Sukry and Sos Fati­las and their pride and joy but her birth was also a new mile­stone for Hos­pi­tals Be­yond Bound­aries, a Malaysian non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that runs the ma­ter­nity cen­tre with a team of lo­cal health prac­ti­tion­ers.

Hos­pi­tals Be­yond Bound­aries (HBB) is ded­i­cated to­wards im­prov­ing the health of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties through sus­tain­able health­care ef­forts by build­ing hos­pi­tals and clin­ics run by lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

What makes HBB in­ter­est­ing is that it came into be­ing be­cause of the ef­forts of a group of en­er­getic, pas­sion­ate and big­hearted Malaysian youths, all un­der 30 years of age.

TURN­ING POINT HBB is run by a team of 13 youths from var­i­ous pro­fes­sional back­grounds who share the same pas­sion for help­ing the un­der­priv­i­leged and giv­ing back to so­ci­ety.

The team is led by Dr Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lok­man, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the five-year-old or­gan­i­sa­tion. Born into a fam­ily of med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, 30-yearold Dr Mohd Lutfi was in­spired by the vol­un­tary work done by var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Mercy Malaysia. How­ever, an in­jury sus­tained dur­ing his first year as a med­i­cal stu­dent was the turn­ing point for him to be­come more in­volved in vol­un­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially those re­lat­edto health­care.

“I did my med­i­cal de­gree un­der a twin­ning pro­gramme be­tween Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia and Univer­si­tas Pad­jad­jaran in Ban­dung, In­done­sia. The in­ci­dent hap­pened dur­ing my first year at UKM. I couldn’t walk for months and it left me with per­ma­nent tin­ni­tus in my left ear.

“The in­ci­dent con­stantly re­minded me of the im­por­tance of health and to make the best of what­ever we have to help oth­ers,” says the gov­ern­ment med­i­cal of­fi­cer at the In­sti­tute for Health Sys­tem Re­search.

“While in Ban­dung, I was in­volved in var­i­ous types of vol­un­tary work and I saw a huge gap be­tween the rich and poor with re­gard to health­care. I knew some­thing should be done to help the un­der­priv­i­leged. So, I con­veyed the idea to my friend Dr Wan Ab­dul Han­nan, and even­tu­ally, HBB was born,” he says.

He was also in­spired to set up the or­gan­i­sa­tion af­ter read­ing the in­spi­ra­tional book

by Traci Kid­der.

Moun­tains Be­yond Moun­tains Co-founder and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Dr Wan Ab­dul Han­nan Wan Ibadul­lah, 28, says the jour­ney was not easy ini­tially be­cause they were just stu­dents when they started HBB in 2012. “Dr Lutfi and I dis­cussed it dur­ing our fourth year af­ter at­tend­ing a med­i­cal con­fer­ence in Mum­bai, In­dia. Dur­ing the con­fer­ence, we vis­ited a hos­pi­tal built in a slum area which was run by the lo­cal com­mu­nity. In­spired by what we saw, we too hoped to build hos­pi­tals and clin­ics where they were most needed and to have these fa­cil­i­ties op­er­ated by lo­cals.

“How­ever, it was a huge chal­lenge to con­vince peo­ple about HBB’s big mis­sion be­cause we were still stu­dents,” says Dr Wan. “With­out the ti­tle of Doc­tor then, tell-

ing peo­ple that we needed funds to build hos­pi­tals for the un­der­priv­i­leged sounded to, some of the peo­ple we ap­proached, to be just too good to be true.”

SO­CIAL HEALTH EN­TER­PRISE

A firm be­liever in com­mu­nity em­pow­er­ment and health eq­uity be­yond hos­pi­tal bor­ders, Dr Lutfi says HBB was born with the re­al­i­sa­tion that while many NGOs in South­east Asia re­spond to wars, famines and dis­as­ters, the ef­forts made in build­ing a so­ci­ety af­ter these pe­ri­ods of tur­moil are

usu­ally small.

“Rather than of­fer­ing short-term emer­gency relief or in­ter­ven­tions, HBB fo­cuses on ef­forts that last a life­time. Be­sides build­ing hos­pi­tals or clin­ics where they are needed most, we aim to look at health­care be­yond dis­ease, tem­po­rary treat­ments or cu­ra­tive mea­sures,” he says.

“We aim to look at health­care by in­clud­ing ad­e­quate shel­ter, nu­tri­tion and health ed­u­ca­tion and by be­com­ing part of the com­mu­nity and em­pow­er­ing them to take charge to­wards mak­ing pos­i­tive changes in their lives.”

HBB’s first project kick-started in Phnom Penh where Dr Lutfi and his team set up a clinic to serve the Cham com­mu­nity, an eth­nic mi­nor­ity that mainly live be­low the na­tional poverty line.

Built us­ing re­cy­cled in­dus­trial con­tain­ers, the clinic has been of­fer­ing gen­eral out­pa­tient health­care ser­vices to more than 3,000 peo­ple since 2015. The clinic is manned by seven lo­cals trained by HBB. The team also runs the Ma­ter­nity Health Cen­tre.

“The cen­tre was set up in March and is ex­pected to be fully com­pleted in Septem­ber. How­ever, since it started, we have had more than 30 ex­pect­ing moth­ers com­ing for an­te­na­tal check-ups and have suc­cess­fully per­formed our first de­liv­ery too,” says Dr Lutfi.

He says HBB works as a so­cial health en­ter­prise that uses mar­ket-based mech­a­nisms to op­er­ate, with com­mu­nity em­pow­er­ment, rather than char­ity, as its core.

“A so­cial health en­ter­prise works well in a sit­u­a­tion where re­sources are scarce and con­fronted by cul­tural dif­fer­ences or bu­reau­cratic mea­sures. With this busi­ness model, we are able to cre­ate jobs for the lo­cals and train them to take charge of the well-be­ing of their own com­mu­nity.

“Be­sides de­pend­ing on donors to fund our ser­vices, we utilise the cross-sub­sidy con­cept where we sub­sidise pa­tients across dif­fer­ent so­cio-eco­nomic classes. And all prof­its are rein­vested to im­prove or ex­tend our ser­vices,” he ex­plains.

With this busi­ness model, we are able to cre­ate jobs for the lo­cals and train them to take charge of the well-be­ing of their own com­mu­nity.

Dr Mohd Lutfi

SUS­TAIN­ABLE DE­VEL­OP­MENT GOALS

With the help of vol­un­teers of dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional back­grounds, the youth-led or­gan­i­sa­tion also set up a mo­bile clinic for the home­less and ur­ban poor at Jalan Medan Tuanku, Kuala Lumpur.

The mo­bile clinic opens once a month and is aimed at pro­mot­ing a healthy life­style among vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties whom they re­gard as KL Street Friends.

Be­sides that, HBB is cur­rently busy work­ing on a new project on the lo­cal front fol­low­ing Dr Mohd Lutfi’s global recog­ni­tion as an ad­vo­cate of change for the United Na­tions. He was named among 17 United Na­tions Young Lead­ers for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals at the So­cial Good Sum­mit in New York in Septem­ber 2016.

“We’re work­ing on a project for the Orang Asli com­mu­nity in Ta­pah, Perak as part of our five-year plan to de­velop and ex­e­cute ef­fec­tive sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals lo­cally,” says Dr Mohd Lutfi who was also re­cently named as Forbes’ 30 Un­der 30 Asia 2017.

He says the project is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween HBB, Malaysian In­ter­na­tional Youth Coun­cil, Malaysian Hu­man­i­tar­ian Move­ment, MYCorp and BluBear Hold­ings.

AGENTS OF CHANGE

In 10 years time, Dr Mohd Lutfi, Dr Wan Ab­dul Han­nan and the rest of the team are de­ter­mined to see more HBB-fronted hos­pi­tals in South­east Asia by con­tin­u­ously em­pow­er­ing the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“To do that, we will con­tinue en­cour­ag­ing the young gen­er­a­tion to be agents of change by tak­ing ac­tion and walk­ing the talk. We at HBB want them to re­alise that al­though we are young, there is so much that we can do to make a dif­fer­ence in so­ci­ety as long as we have pas­sion and com­mit­ment,” says Dr Mohd Lutfi.

“The feel­ing of giv­ing back what you have (e.g. knowl­edge, skills, etc) for the ben­e­fit of other peo­ple is price­less and per­son­ally re­ward­ing,” says Dr Wan Ab­dul Han­nan.

“Be­sides, life is too short; do some­thing

which is mean­ing­ful to oth­ers. The feel­ing when re­ceiv­ing a sim­ple ‘thank you’ from a per­son whom you helped is just be­yond words,” adds Dr Mohd Lutfi.

PIC­TURES COUR­TESY OF HOS­PI­TALS BE­YOND BOUND­ARIES

Dr Mohd Lutfi (left) at­tend­ing to a pa­tient dur­ing HBB’s monthly house vis­its. The HBB clinic at Phnom Penh was built us­ing re­cy­cled in­dus­trial con­tain­ers.

Dr Wan Ab­dul Han­nan says that ini­tially some peo­ple were doubt­ful about HBB be­cause the founders were just stu­dents.

HBB’s first project kick-started in Phnom Penh, Cam­bo­dia.

Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

The team be­hind the plan to de­velop and ex­e­cute Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals for the Orang Asli in Ta­pah, Perak.

HBB sec­re­tary Dr Izza.

HBB project di­rec­tor Dr Inah.

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