The Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship, a charity venture run by registered NGO, Friendship, and funded by the Emirates Airline Foundation has been officially inaugurated in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Emirates' management and officials from the Bangladesh government attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Emirates Airline Foundation, the airline's onboard charity initiative that funds projects around the world in aid of underprivileged children, financed the twin-hulled vessel, granting in excess of $750,000 to Friendship. In addition, the Foundation will fund the annual operating expenses of the vessel, estimated to be $150,000.

Emirates has also signed a management contract for the ship with Friendship. The ship will ply approximately 250 kilometres along the River Bhramaputra north of the country and serve over three million people living on more than 400 small islands and on the river banks.

The well-appointed mobile hospital ship is equipped with chambers for doctors, primary health care facilities, two operating theatres, two eight-bed wards, paediatric and gyaencology units, a dental room, a pathological laboratory, an X-ray room and an ophthalmic room. A dispensary onboard will distribute free medicine and the registration room can accommodate up to 24 staff and eight visiting doctors. The deck of the ship can house 30 to 40 patients in an emergency.

Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline, said: “Emirates is pleased to be able to reach out to the people of Bangladesh with this project. This is the Emirates Airline Foundation's flagship project in Bangladesh and we hope to be able to do a lot more in the years to come with the kind support of our customers who donate generously onboard. We also have a bank of donated Skywards Miles which we use to sponsor tickets for doctors who visit this project and other humanitarian causes around the world.''

He added: “We take our corporate social responsibility very seriously, and we find reaching out through the Foundation is a very rewarding way of showing we care. The Foundation sponsors charities in a number of other destinations including India, Africa, Sri Lanka and Jordan.''

This is the second such ship that is coming into operation in the northern chars of Bangladesh. The other existing project, the Lifebuoy Friendship Hospital Ship, also receives volunteer doctors from all over the world sponsored by the Emirates Airline Foundation. These doctors donate their free time and holidays to work on the ship in addition to providing health education to the masses. It has been a very successful operation with thousands of rural poor benefiting from the service. The Emirates Airline Foundation will continue to sponsor doctors for the new ship as well.

Runa Khan, Executive Director, Friendship, said: “This new ship will help us in our task of reaching out to the poorest of the poor in this region with the best of health facilities. Friendship is thankful to Emirates for taking this project under its wing. We cannot do enough for these people who are struggling to stay alive in the worst conditions possible and need all the help we can get. We expect to treat up to 60,000 patients a year on the Emirates Friendship Hospital Ship – 85 per cent of the beneficiaries are women and children.''