4,500 Para Centres now running in 3 hill districts
Bihari Chakma from Rangamati: A new window of development opportunity has opened up for the people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) as a total of 4500 Para Centres are rendering services for the health, education and social bonding of mother and children in three hill districts, which is running by Chittagong Tracks Development Board. The 4,000th Para Centre was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 21 January 2018 to broaden access to basic social services for the people living in this post-conflict area. Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board and UNICEF jointly implementing the program. Of the centres; 1675 in Rangamati, 1600 in Khagrachari and rest 1225 in Bandarban.
More than 55,000 hilly kids are getting 19-capacity building services including pre-school education, social safety awareness facilities from the Para centres. Moreover, the para centre activists are providing child and maternity health services among 206,000 hilly families through the smaller gatherings.
International Advisor to Prime Minister Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury MP, also spoke on the occasion. The inauguration ceremony was presided over by State Minister, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing MP.
The network of para centres or small villages have been established and implemented jointly by UNICEF and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board under the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) for the Chittagong Hill Tracts which now act as the nucleus of basic social services for the people in three hill districts Rangamati, Banderban and Khagrachari.
With the landmark opening of the 4500 Para Centres, the CHT region which is home to 1.6 million people and 11 different ethnic communities will get the necessary boost in terms of accessing basic social services and improving the living standards of its disadvantaged people.
“This is truly a momentous occasion for the development of the CHT region as the wide institutional networks of 4,500 Para Centres are now established and functional. It is also a clear indication of the government’s highest commitment to uplift this region lagging behind in almost all major development indicators,” said Tomoo Hozumi, head of UNICEF Bangladesh.
Lauding the Prime Minister and her government’s historic role to end the 25-year-long civil unrest in CHT through signing of the peace accord in 1997 and paving the way for sustained development, he reiterated UNICEF’s continued support and reminded that a lot remains to be done to ensure equitable social services such as education, health, nutrition, protection, water and sanitation, especially in the hard-to-reach hill areas. He also reiterated that the para centres are one of the best examples of ECD centre and considering the importance of early childhood development (ECD), the Para Centres can be converted into exclusive ECD centres and the model of the “para centre approach” could be replicated in other parts of Bangladesh to provide one stop basic social services in the remote areas of the country.
The CHT communities have been facing multiple deprivations due to its unique demography, land, socio economic situations and cultural diversities. While Bangladesh has made steady gains in social development in recent years, the results are not evenly distributed as all three districts of CHT fall within the underperforming districts identified for UN Development Assistance Framework in Bangladesh.
To promote inclusion of CHT in mainstream development, UNICEF and the government of Bangladesh jointly formulated the Para/village Centre approach using a life cycle approach under the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tract Affairs. Its purpose was to improve access and utilization of basic social services for marginalized communities in the CHT through provision of integrated basic services of health, nutrition, education, WASH and child protection through the extensive network of para workers.
Sources of CHT Board told Daily Industry that presently there are 450 field organizers, 200 officials are rendering the services under the project. The board will boost the services gradually by opening 5000 Para centres in the hill areas very shortly, the sources added. The board so far has established 101 child-friend toilets and 131 sources of safe drinking water centres in different locations of 3 hill districts.