On January 20, 2013, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Mr. Dan W. Mozena visited the Teliapara Tea Garden in Sylhet to observe a community awareness and education session for the garden workers. The area around Sylhet is a traditional tea growing area; it is home to over 150 tea gardens, including three of the largest in the world both in area and production.
The Health, Education, and Economic Development (HEED) in Bangladesh is a non-governmental organization working with the TB CARE II project in the Habiganj, Maulavibazar, and Sylhet districts implementing advocacy, communication, and social mobilization activities to increase awareness about Tuberculosis (TB) among tea garden workers and their families, and among the local people and community surrounding the garden. In those districts of the Sylhet Division, the organization covers 157 tea gardens with a population of 650,000.
The session aimed to increase knowledge and improve the care-seeking behavior of the infected and affected community for TB. Visitors included Ambassador Mozena and his wife, USAID Mission Director Richard Greene, and OPHNE Health Officer Ms. Allyson Bear, among others. Greeters included members from the TB CARE II project, HEED, and local doctors. Speeches were given by Executive Director for HEED Bangladesh Mr. Anwar Hossain, Team Leader for the TB CARE II project Dr. ABM Jahangir Alam and Ambassador Mozena.
In his speech, Mr. Hossain outlined the importance of engaging the local community through locally developed social and cultural instruments to build awareness against diseases including TB. One such instrument, entitled the “Pot Song,” seeks to educate people through folk-based songs where certain problems and solutions are narrated. This song was performed later on in the inaugural session for Ambassador Mozena.
Dr. ABM Jahangir Alam discussed the many successes of the National TB Control Program (NTP) and TB CARE II project including the introduction of GeneXpert, an advanced and quick diagnostic instrument, along with the implementation of community-based MDR TB management. He praised the great work that the Government of Bangladesh, through the NTP, has done over the past few years in controlling TB, while at the same time outlining the work to be done in the future through a collaboration of the NTP, TB CARE II, and its partners. This includes providing continual support to improve managerial capacity and leadership in NTP and other in-country partners to accelerate the implementation of TB DOTS, integrating TB and strengthening the National Health System, adopting community-based programmatic approaches for controlling drug-resistant TB, etc.
Ambassador Mozena gave his speech after watching the Pot Song performance. Speaking on behalf of the United States Government, he stated:
“The USA has a dream that Bangladesh will be a ‘Sonar Bengla’ (Golden Bengal) where everyone will have a balanced diet and nobody will die from diseases. But that dream will never come true if TB prevails. This is a battle against TB and the US government will continue support to fight the disease.”