Communities & Civil Society Responds to COVID-19 in Bangladesh

> Communities & Civil Society Actions and Solidarity in Response to COVID-19 > Communities & Civil Society Responds to COVID-19 in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the Government announced the countrywide lockdown from 26 March 2020 that continued till 31 May 2020. To assess the impact of COVID-19 on community people during the lockdown, Bandhu conducted a survey among Hijra and Transgender community. According to the study, 81% decreased their diet and 70% community people borrowed money, 41% faced discrimination during receiving relief from external sources.  61% Gender Diverse Population (GDP) needed food and 59% community people needed cash to survive during the lockdown situation.

As BANDHU is always concerned about community needs and designs timely programs to support the community,  BANDHU has taken following initiatives considering the sudden wake of COVID 19:

  • Distribution of Relief
  • Networking and Communication for enabling support from Government, other agencies and Individuals
  • Mental Health Helpline Counselling
  • Awareness Program
  • Safety and Security Services
  • Fund Raising Program
  • Doctors Help Line
  • Documentation and Monitoring

At a glance achievement:

  • Distribution of relief: 281 individuals
  • Relief ensured through Networking and Communication: 2275 individuals
  • Mental Health Helpline Counseling: 389
  • Awareness Program: 5 materials developed
  • Safety and Security Services: 20,384 equipment’s distributed
  • Fund Raising Program: Received fund for relief and hygiene support from ICCO Corporation 
  • Doctors help line: 21
  • Documentation and monitoring: 2 survey reports

Distribution of Relief:

The Transgender and Hijra community has always been stigmatized and the current countrywide lockdown situation has interrupted their day-to-days earning thus putting their life into misery. Considering this situation, BANDHU distributed 2nd phase relief amongst 281 community people with the support of ICCO Corporation and Kerk in actie. The regular relief package contains 5 kg rice, 1 kg lentils, 3 kg potatoes, 1 kg puffed rice, 2 kg onion, 1-liter soybean oil, 1 kg salt, 2 masks, 1 soap, and 6 pkt. of oral saline.

Networking and Communication for enabling support from Government, other Agencies and Individuals:

Over the years BANDHU has developed a good rapport with local administration, including DC office, Civil Surgeon’s office, LEA in different districts. Through these networks, so far 2275 community people received relief across the country.

Mental Health Helpline Counseling:

The suicidal tendency among the GDP is higher compared to other people due to social stigma, discrimination, family and social exclusion, identity crisis, Gender Based Violence by members of the family, etc. (ref: Bandhu data source). Realizing its importance, BANDHU extended mental health services and introduced exclusive Help Line number (Porichoy: 01714 048418) where community people receive mental health support with full confidentiality throughout the lockdown situation.

So far 389 calls were received from across the country and were provided services accordingly.

Awareness program:

BANDHU has formed a pool to develop time appropriate awareness materials focusing COVID-19 and boosting up on Bandhu’s Webpage, Facebook and other Social Media besides radio message. BANDHU also planned to develop few more communication materials in the local language of Rohingya, so that Rohingya community people can read it out for their awareness.

So far 5 leaflets for public awareness purpose have been developed and uploaded accordingly on the website. In addition, BANDHU is disseminating leaflets of other partners in their respective areas; 19 news have been published in different newspapers including both online and print media. BANDHU is also planning to distribute mask, sanitizer, hand wash for both Rohingya and host community under RGDP project.

Safety and Security services:

Safety and Security of both community people and staff are the key concern of the organization. Focusing COVID-19, BANDHU has already formed 1) Task Force 2) Developed a Work-at-Home policy 3) Guidelines for front line workers 4) Guidelines for relief distribution etc. However, it is also a concern about increasing number of harassments faced the gender-diverse communities and for that providing support from the Ain Alap[1] helpline. During this reporting period, Bandhu received 42 calls where 32 cases are solved and rest are under process. Besides, the following equipment was distributed among the community as well as health services providers with the support of icddr, b and Global Fund.

1) Surgical masks: 2013 pcs 2) Disposable gloves: 15,600 pcs 3) Hand Sanitizer (250 ml): 866 pcs 4) Liquid Soap bottle (250 ml): 720 pcs 5) Detergent Powder (200 gm): 76 pkt 6) Goggles: 30 pcs 7) Utility gloves: 29 pairs 8) Disposable Head cap: 440 pcs 8) Disposable gown: 610 pcs

Fund Raising Program:

Despite all initiatives, significant numbers of community people are still starving (ref: Bandhu survey monkey) throughout COVID-19 situation and are struggling hard to manage food and other necessary amenities. To ensure further food and hygiene support to the community people following WHO guideline, we have taken a number of initiatives to mobilize fund, which is stated below:

  • Developed and submitted a number of proposals to different donors.
  • MJF with the support of DFID has taken 2nd round relief initiatives for 200 youth community members in Dhaka, Chottogram, Khulna and Mymensingh.
  • USAID has approved the re-directing program focusing COVID 19 that will be implemented both in Rohingya and host community besides other parts of the country.
  • Bandhu received fund from ICCO Corporation and Kerk in actie for direct relief and hygiene materials.
  • Christian Aid (CA) already redesigned the program and allocated support for COVID 19 which is in pipeline

Doctor’s helpline:

To ensure prompt health care support of the community, BANDHU has decided to introduce Doctor’s Helpline and through this helpline, they will receive all kinds of medical advice based on their needs and demands. This service was launched on 23 May 2020 and so far, 21 calls have been received across the country. The Doctor’s helpline number: 01744 755232 (weekdays from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm)

Documentation and Monitoring

In May 2020, BANDHU conducted two short assessment through survey monkey (link: focusing overall GDP and Hijra & TG population to document the evidence-based program during COVID 19. In addition, BANDHU is producing COVID-19 update and its response on a regular basis since the beginning of March 2020.

Overall Challenges:

  • One-time relief is not sufficient for the community as they are currently jobless and struggling to survive. Most of the community members are an insignificant level of pressure for paying house rent by their land owner.
  • Maintaining social distance is very difficult for the community as most of them living in small rooms and sharing with other community members.
  • The existence of stigma and gender-based violence become more visible when they go out to receive relief from the local administration.