New Delhi: When it comes to accidents or emergency treatment, the first one hour after the accident is known as the ‘golden hour’ and how the patient is treated or handled in that hour has the maximum effect on the victim’s health.

Around 1.24 million people die on the world’s roads due to accidents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, when it comes to post-accident care, Bangladesh does not have any emergency telephone number and less than 10% of the seriously injured are transported by ambulance, according to a WHO report.

TraumaLink, a volunteer-based emergency response system based in Dhaka, aims to tackle the barriers of travel time and cost for traffic injury victims.

Despite thousands of road accidents every year, there are only private ambulances available in the country, usually at unaffordable prices. TraumaLink helps traffic crash victims survive their injuries by connecting them to local first responders.

“TraumaLink is specifically an emergency service for road and highway accidents because we do not have any such service," said Mridul Chowdhury, co-founder and vice-president of business development at TraumaLink. “We train volunteers on what to do whenever an accident occurs. They notify our call centre agent and tell us about what kind of an accident has occurred and the call centre sends a mass SMS to all volunteers. They help get the victims transferred to care facilities."

TraumaLink won a Manthan award this year in the e-health category for its initiative.

The organization trains volunteers from the local community, equips them with locally sourced first-aid supplies and uses its 24x7 call centre to promptly send them to accident sites. A hotline number allows bystanders to quickly call and activate an emergency response.

This agent enters the location of the crash and the number of injured persons into the proprietary call centre software. The software then utilizes an embedded algorithm to dispatch the required number of volunteers prioritized according to their proximity to the crash scene.

The volunteers receive an SMS that tells them where the crash has occurred and they can respond with an SMS or call to say if they plan to respond. If they do, they can call the call centre operator to receive guidance about the nearest appropriate medical facilities for the injured crash victims.

“One big challenge is that we took quite a bit of time to get the government on board, for them to see how serious we really are about this. And so, we got a short code number a year after we applied for it; a five-digit number that people can easily remember," said Chowdhury.

In Bangladesh, the reported casualties on the roads were 3,602 in 2014, but it is considered an underestimate. A study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory and funded by the UK Department of International Development in 2003 showed that Bangladesh saw 885,056 accidents annually, out of which 10,692 were fatal.

“The biggest motivation was that a lot of these road accidents are happening in Bangladesh and not much is being done about it," said Chowdhury. “The government does not have enough resources to mobilize ambulance services; the private sector is not interested in investing; and we don’t have trauma centres anyway. A lot of people were dying unnecessarily due to lack of timely help."

Most of TraumaLink’s areas of operations are near highways in suburban or rural areas. “There are a lot of young people who are not employed and want to make a difference; hence we have been able to find volunteers," said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury believes that one can often do a lot with very little resources and creativity. “In public health, we are often thinking of ambulances and making hospitals; big investments. But what we do is put together what we have available on the ground and providing a service using technology. That is our biggest innovation," he said.

TraumaLink is one of the initiatives undertaken by mPower Social Enterprises Ltd, which designs, develops and implements customized technology based solutions to help development organizations improve the implementation of its programmes related to various areas, including agriculture, healthcare and poverty.

Founded by graduate students of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008, mPower is based in Dhaka and has partnered with more than 50 of the world’s leading development organizations across eight countries.

Mint has a strategic partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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