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Rajshahi, BANGLADESH: When Nur Alam was 15 years-old he accompanied an ailing relative to the hospital. It was there he befriended the local doctor who, recognizing his passion and skill, encouraged Nur to work with him at the hospital, giving him his first real taste of patient care. This confidence set him on a path to becoming a celebrated community healthcare provider.

Nur now runs the Madhusudhanpur Community Clinic in the Rajshahi District of Bangladesh. For the past nine years he has served the community of 20,000 people, treating as many as 1,200 patients a month. Residents were initially reluctant to visit him, not realizing all the services and benefits available at the clinic. But Nur put in the effort to gain their trust through concerted health initiatives and now is their first stop in any health emergency.

Now on the frontlines of a global pandemic, Nur is more determined than ever to deliver lifesaving services to the community. With more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 reported in Bangladesh and the country under lockdown, knowing how to continue critical health services is vital. Nur completed an e-learning course on COVID-19 from Muktopaath, the government’s e-learning platform for professional development. Armed with this information, he adapted his services to the telephone, answering and making calls to counsel and advise patients on preventative measures they can take against the outbreak.

As part of Nutrition International’s Right Start initiative, Nur had previously received training on providing support and counselling to pregnant women to ensure safe deliveries and postnatal care.

“My training with Nutrition International helped me understand essential protocols and indicators to improve maternal health,” said Nur. “I have truly understood the importance of my work and am able to support women in my community, so they have safer pregnancies and deliveries.”

He is now using this training in the context of the pandemic, mindful of his pregnant patients as he continues to use behaviour change materials and compliance cards from Nutrition International to provide timely antenatal care services, iron and folic acid supplementation, and counselling. Nur educates pregnant and lactating mothers on the importance of nutritious food and the relation to strong immune systems.

For those who must visit the clinic, Nur has created a new patient intake system so that only three patients enter the premises at a time, each are treated within 15 minutes, and social distancing is maintained while they wait. He purchased personal protective equipment for his and his patients’ safety and established a separate examination room for patients presenting with a fever or cough. Following national response protocols, he registers and screens all potential COVID-19 patients in the government app. He has also set up a custom handwashing station just outside to protect his patients and himself and raise awareness about the importance of hygiene.

In 2013, Nur received a well-deserved award for ‘Best Community Clinic’ from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. He considers this – and the love and trust he receives from the community – to be his greatest achievement. It is also a testament to his dedication and effort that there have been no coronavirus cases yet in his community.

“I will do everything I can to serve my community and country,” said Nur. “Nobody should be afraid to do their duty, fully and responsibly. My father, who is a freedom fighter, instilled these values in me, and they are my legacy.”