Memorial Christian Hospital

Malumghat, Bangladesh

Mission Organization
Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Inc. (ABWE)

Memorial Christian Hospital opened in 1966, having been founded by Dr. Viggo Olsen, who was inspired by the combined overwhelming physical need and the great spiritual neglect of the people of Bangladesh. Today, the hospital has approximately 100 inpatient beds, and is the major surgical resource for 10 million people in a country of over 166 million people. Approximately 2,000 surgical cases are performed each year.

Typhoid, malaria, tropical ulcers, parasites, and rabies are some of the diseases that stalk the towns and villages served by the hospital’s outpatient department (40,000 patients a year). Malnutrition, helminths, diarrheal disease, pneumonia, burns, trauma, open fractures, osteomyelitis, meningitis, and all sorts of skin disease, cancers, and a lot of DNK's (“do not know's,” which are real diagnostic puzzles) are also found there.

The outpatient department has a very busy emergency room and sees 50–200 patients per day, depending on the number of available physicians. This is a vital department, in that it is the place where many people have their first and only contact with Christianity. The hospital has specialties in obstetrics and is known for doing the area's high risk deliveries. The orthopedics department has one of the few shops that can make artificial limbs and braces. Several orthopedic patients a day require surgical intervention. There is also a physical therapy department, X-ray, pharmacy, limited dentistry services, and a lab that conducts standard tests.

The hospital provides a full immunization program, antenatal care, public health teaching, and a community health program. A primary reason for admission to the hospital is pregnancy and/or its complications. Volunteer physicians generally see more OB pathology at this hospital in two months than most will see during a lifetime of practice in the U.S. The hospital does a lot of other surgery as well, but almost all of it is emergency work. Purely elective surgical patients are rarely admitted, depending on bed space.

Fly by commercial airline to Dhaka; fly domestically to Cox's Bazar; drive approximately 1–2 hours to the hospital at Malumghat.
Time Difference
+10 hours daylight saving time; +11 hours Eastern Standard Time
Bangladesh is surrounded by India and shares a common border with Myanmar. The southeastern tip of the country is a beautiful area of rolling hills and large landscapes of huge trees and spreading, green rice fields. The hospital and housing complex are set in a beautiful forest overlooking a tidal stream from the Bay of Bengal. Malumghat is 300 miles southeast of the capital city of Dhaka.
Most of the 166 million people of Bangladesh look just like the people of India with brown skin and eyes and dark black hair. The rest of the population is composed of tribal people known for their striking Asian features. Most people outside of the cities live in bamboo or mud-walled houses and farm small plots of land. Only 50 percent of the people can read and write.
The national language in Bangladesh is Bengali (Bangla), although Chittagonian is the regional dialect spoken by patients of the hospital. All of the missionaries and many of the national medical staff speak English.
89 percent of the people are Muslim and 10 percent are Hindu. The remaining 1 percent of the people are either Buddhist, Animist, or Christian (about one-tenth of 1 percent). Spiritual ministry among these major groups is difficult but productive over the long term. The tribal people from the nearby hill country along the Myanmar (Burma) border are more receptive to the Gospel.
Bangladesh, situated about 22 degrees north of the equator, has a tropical climate with monsoons and periodic devastating cyclones. The monsoons begin in early June and end as late as October, dropping around 100 inches of rain. The rest of the year is clear and dry, with April, May, September, and October being the hottest months. In the hot months, the temperature is often over 100 F with humidity at 90–100 percent. The months from November to February are the pleasant, cooler, and drier months with daytime temperatures in the high 70's and nights in the 50's or lower. The weather begins to change in early November and becomes progressively cooler and less humid. By mid-December, it is often cool enough to have a fire in a fireplace at night. Because there is no central heat in the houses, it is quite chilly in the evenings and mornings during the cool season. By mid-February, the temperatures begin to warm up again.
The 43-acre compound at Malumghat has housing facilities for 12 families and 14 singles. These are ranch-style homes constructed of brick and cement, and are supplied with electricity, running water, and normal indoor bathroom facilities. For short-term volunteers, the on-compound guesthouse is quite comfortable and can house spouses and families as well. Air conditioning is available at an additional cost. Cooks and housekeepers are on staff at the guesthouse.
There are supermarkets in the large cities of Bangladesh, but only staples and fresh foods (meat, fish, chicken, fruits, and vegetables) are available in the local open-air market (or bazar). Items like ice cream, cheese, butter, canned goods, and frozen chicken can be ordered from Chittagong. Rice is the staple of the Bangladeshi diet, and the main Bengali food is curry, a very spicy stew served with rice. Bangladeshis grow papayas, mangos, bananas, lemons, and pineapples. During growing season (December–April), people enjoy their vegetable gardens, which produce fresh lettuce, tomatoes, corn, peas, cabbage, carrots, etc. You may purchase your meals in the guesthouse or cook your own.
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