Bangladesh suffers from both a shortage and geographic maldistribution of Human Resources for Health. The country had four nurses and midwives and six physicians per 10 000 people in 2019 while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 44.5 skilled health professionals per 10 000 population. The availability of primary healthcare services and skilled healthcare professionals is very limited in rural areas in particular.
ASTHA, formerly known as TARSAN, started in 2011 to address this gap in Bangladesh’s health sector. As a result of the project’s previous efforts, the Community Paramedic Training Programme is now an established professional training offered by private and public training institutes and governed by the Bangladesh Nursing and Midwifery Council under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Young men and women acquire medical knowledge and specialised competence in the two-year course for Community Paramedics. Apart from theoretical training with a strong focus on mother-child health, they complete a six-month internship in a hospital. This qualifies them for diagnosis and treatment of frequently occurring diseases that are not complex. Moreover, the graduates are able to provide professional support during pregnancies and assistance at births.
ASTHA is currently in its third four-year project phase (2023-2026). The project works in the three areas:
ASTHA Phase III (2023 – 2026) is being implemented in twelve districts of Bangladesh: Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Gaibandha, and Bogura in the north, Sunamganj, Moulovibajar, and Sylhet in the north-east and Barishal, Barguna, and Patuakhali in the south.
Improved healthcare services for people in remote communities
Strengthened Community Paramedic training system
Strengthened Community Paramedic service provision
This project is financed by Novartis, the Evi Diethelm Winteler Stiftung, and the Laguna Foundation, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.