United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has rolled out urgent response to help nearly 2.16 million people stay safe from the deadly coronavirus in an effort to protect Bangladesh’s urban poor, the group most vulnerable to the threat posed by COVID-19 pandemic.
The Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP), being implemented jointly with Bangladesh government’s Local Government Division with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), is at the forefront of the initiative.
“The urban low-income communities in Bangladesh are exposed to high risk of infections for overcrowded living conditions with inadequate sanitation and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities,” Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh government and National Project Director of LIUPCP Md Abdul Mannan said.
He said they are closely working in partnership with 20 city corporations/municipalities currently with around 2.16 million beneficiaries grouped under around 2500 Community Development Committees (CDCs), according to UNDP.
“Against the backdrop of current scenario, LIUPCP has engaged its strength and efforts towards prevention of COVID-19 pandemic. The strong network and platform established at the city corporation and municipal levels are engaged for preparedness and early actions against COVID-19,” Mannan pointed out.
The project has taken a three-pronged approach to respond concurrently across the pre-surge, surge and recovery phases, with a focus on vulnerable populations including women, children, elderly and persons with disabilities (PWD).
“What we’re trying to do is to make things easier for the people to follow the public order – which is to stay home and prevent the virus from spreading and therefore this partnership will deliver support at the doorsteps of the poor households,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh.
Around 1200+ community workers are at the forefront of LIUPCP’s implementation on the ground through community mobilization. They have been provided with Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)/hygiene kits.
The project has also started installation of 2,500 hand-washing facilities at the key locations of 20 city corporations/municipalities as well as in the communities.
In addition, promotion of individual hand-washing behaviour and introducing low-cost facilities (Tipi-tap) at household level are taking place at the community level.
The urban poor households have also been given hygiene package from the project that includes soap, hand sanitiser, etc.
Also, in line with emergency response plan, UNDP is also raising the awareness of the people on coronavirus prevention in the communities through communications and outreach campaign.
The project has been supporting the city corporations and municipalities in the areas of coordination & capacity building.
LIUPCP’s support towards existing coordination mechanism at the city/town level has been in place as per Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) under the leadership of the mayor.
The project will also sensitise and work for capacity building of the health officials and volunteers in 20 cities.
In addition, data, research and third party monitoring though Online Management Information Systems is a priority.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided $1.3 million financial assistance to avoid trainees from dropping out of the ongoing training under Skills for Employment Investment program (SEIP).
The SEIP is providing sector-focused and job-ready skills training through partnerships with public institutes, industry associations and other organizations, covering skills requirements in 10 industry sectors, said a press release issued on Thursday.
“Each of the 22,619 current trainees will get BDT5,000 as one-time assistance,” said ADB Country Director for Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused adverse impacts on the trainees’ livelihood and this assistance will help the trainees to continue their training as they are from poor households and chances of their dropping out are high due to the prolonged COVID-19 lock down.”
“We have requested the Government to transfer the money timely to the trainees through their bank accounts”, Country Director Mr. Parkash added.
The assistance is additional to the $350,000 emergency grant approved on 27 March, and other ADB support package being put together in the health and financial sectors for tackling Covid-19 challenges in Bangladesh.
ADB has announced measures to help its developing member countries tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
On 18 March 2020, ADB announced a $6.5 billion initial package to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. An emergency grant of $350,000 was approved on 27 March to support Bangladesh to procure health safety materials including personal protective gears, N95 masks, safety googles, aprons, thermometers, and biohazard bags.
Bangladeshi expatriates living in Canada are worried about the coronavirus situation both in Canada and Bangladesh as it continues to ravage the entire world, says an expatriate.
He says now volunteers need to come forward and extend their helping hands as there are many ways to get involved in helping the poor suffering for lack of job both in Dhaka city and elsewhere in the country due to the coronavirus fallout.
Talking to UNB over phone, Emamul Haque, a former UN official in Bangladesh and executive director of PACE (Progressive Action for Community Empowerment), Canada, a Toronto-based non-profit organisation, said, “We all need to keep eyes on those vulnerable, lonely and jobless. We’re doing that here in Canada.”
Emamul said Bangladeshi expatriates living in Canada have taken some good initiatives. “Especially, Bangladeshi-origin youths have come up in this situation voluntarily. They’re delivering food items to single mothers who’re in home-quarantine with their children and others living in dire need at this crisis moment.”
Asked whether Bangladeshi youths have learnt this in Canada, he said taking voluntary initiatives is common in Canada. “It’s extraordinary to help others when everyone is busy with his or her own job.”
According to available information, the number of Bangladeshi Canadians is around 100,000 and most of them are concentrated in Greater Toronto and Montreal areas.
Emamul, however, expressed displeasure over the news that red flags were being hoisted in front of the houses of those who have returned to Bangladesh recently from abroad.
He said it might be devastating if the coronavirus outbreak gets worse. “Mob might vandalise the houses identified with red flags,” he said, expressing the hope that the coronavirus situation will not deteriorate in Bangladesh.
Emamul said Bangladesh should have taken steps much earlier to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
As soon as the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took precautionary measures so that Chinese nationals living in Canada do not fall victims, he said.
Pointing at Trudeau’s regular appearance before the nation in an effort to tackle the situation and steps taken by his government, Emamul said top leaders in Bangladesh could also follow suit to raise hope among the people of the country. “When a top leader speaks to the nation every day, it motivates people, raises awareness and helps them to be more serious.”
Asked about the tolerance the local Canadians are demonstrating during the coronavirus pandemic, he said tolerance is very important in a multicultural society.
Coronavirus, first reported in China in December last year, is affecting 202 countries and territories around the world and two international conveyances.
Meanwhile, the global death toll from the coronavirus or COVID-19 has reached 47,241 as of Thursday.
It has so far infected 935,840 people around the world, according to worldometer.
Bangladesh has so far reported six deaths from the coronavirus. Besides, 24 patients are currently under treatment in the country while 26 others have already made recovery.
Meanwhile, 9,731 people have so far tested positive for coronavirus in Canada while the country confirmed deaths of 129 people.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife was tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 but recovered from the disease on March 29.
Dr Zhang Wenhong is the head of infectious disease at Huashan Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai.
He is considered the gatekeeper of Shanghai for his heavy involvement in creating the public health policies that worked and kept the city safe against COVID-19.
Chinese Embassy in Dhaka is thinking that Dr. Zhang's knowledge and experience would benefit his Bangladeshi counterparts.
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has been "exerting his influence" to invite Dr. Zhang to have a video conference with health officials and frontline doctors in Bangladesh in a few days to come, said Deputy Head of Mission Yan Hualong on Wednesday.
One model had predicted Shanghai would see 800,000 cases, but through their extraordinary early efforts to limit travel, to end large gatherings and immediately implement social distancing and testing, Dr. Zhang Wenhong and his team, together with Shanghai Municipality Authorities and its 24 million citizens managed to limit cases to just 300 confirmed cases, Yan said.
"And Dr. Zhang and his team have cured 95% of their COVID-19 patients in his hospital," he added.
Now he is using his knowledge and experience to spread scientific knowledge to help countries fighting with the pandemic.
The United States has said it is deeply troubled by escalating violence in the northern Rakhine State and Chin State of Myanmar, where dozens have been killed and thousands have been displaced in recent months.
"We call on the Government of Burma to allow unhindered humanitarian access and to restore internet access. We also call on others to provide additional assistance and avoid actions that would further destabilise the region," said Morgan Ortagus, US Department of State Spokesperson on Wednesday.
The current situation is exacerbated by ongoing restrictions on humanitarian and media access, and the prolonged internet blackout, which cut communities off from lifesaving assistance and vital information, according to US Department of State.
"Access to humanitarian assistance and information are all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic," said the US official.
The US expressed deepest sympathies for all those affected by the violence, including the hundreds of families whose homes were recently destroyed.
"We call on all parties to cease fighting, take necessary precautions to protect local communities, and pursue peaceful dialogue," said the Spokesperson.
For decades, the US has partnered with those in Myanmar in support of their democratic aspirations and their pursuit of peace and prosperity.
Since 2012, the US has funded large-scale efforts at decreasing violence, promoting human rights, and finding peace for all in Rakhine State.
After the onset of the Rakhine State crisis in 2017, the people of the United States have given more than $820 million to ease humanitarian suffering of all affected by the crisis and find a way to resolve the ongoing emergency.