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Minimizing Covid-19 Impact: Bangladeshi Marginalized People’s Effort in Frontline

By Tushar Kanti Baidya – Wednesday, April 8, 2020

When people of China, Singapore and Thailand were busy tackling Covid-19, a very few people could merely imagine that the same would inevitably happen in Bangladesh. As an unfortunate result, many people got affected right after the shutdown announcement. As educational institutions got forcibly closed on 17th March, many day wage earners like rickshaw pullers, street food sellers, hawkers and auto rickshaw drivers had to encounter trouble in managing their daily food.


Due to the traditional policy and multi-layer processing, the political initiatives of government and other large-scale non-government organizations were not instantly available at that time though many of them have started helping the poverty-stricken people by the beginning of April. However, from 17th to 31st March undergo a very crucial period, as the pandemic news was inadvertently creating panic and unrest among the people, the price of daily necessary food and vegetables were also on the rise. On other hand, masks, hand sanitize and other essential hygiene products were vanished from the overcrowded market.


When such situations inevitably made everyone crazy and fearful, a talented bunch of local youth, along with the active members of marginalized communities and their key allies came sensibly diminishing the legitimate fear. Social organizations like Inclusive Bangladesh, Shomporker Noya Shetu, Shada Kalo, Shocheton Hijra Adhikar Shangha, Shomoy, Diner Alo, Noboprovaat, Brihonnala, etc. immediately started helping not only marginalized communities but also ordinary people of day wage earner category and slum areas. Many marginalized individuals were also managing crowd funding from home and abroad to enthusiastically support marginalized people in this situation.


Some of these marginalized organizations produced hand sanitize and mask by their own while others arranged rice, lentils, onion, oil, soap, puffed rice and spices to cover up 7-14 days of the affected and deprived marginalized people. These logistical supports are being distributed to cover-up this interim period of lockdown so that the marginalized people can stay at their house for safety without worrying about their daily food.


Hosemin Islam, one of the well-known transgender members of Bangladeshi marginalized community is working very actively to equitably distribute initial food supply for the transgender community in distinct parts of the country. On 1st of April, four of the food supply bags were snatched by some slum boys, while she was on her way to deliver them. “People are starving in many places, and we cannot see the actual face of the situation and need more help now to tackle the upcoming days if the problem takes longer to fix.” said Hosemin while asked about her personal experience on this pandemic.


The key challenge, among many was to create a list of beneficiaries of these crowdfunding initiatives, as none had faced this situation before and many organizations were not ready with the updated database of the vulnerable people. Many of the organizations, despite being large-stake, had to request for a fresh donation from local and international donors because there was no scope to create an emergency fund for marginalized population saving from the small number of grants they had received for previous projects and activities. Presently, every one of us recognizes the urgency to create a “Marginalized Community Emergency Fund”, especially for those countries where marginalized communities are unacknowledged or not recognized.


Apart of that, this pandemic is also revealing us, how disconnected we are from one to another and how the social organizations’ plea to the general people, for help, are creating the dilemma among those common people to choose the right organization for help.


Despite all of these obstacles, we are nevertheless hoping to get our old typical days to come back where we will use our learnings and experiences from this pandemic and strengthen our existence for the upcoming century.

Tushar Kanti Baidya, is an educator and human rights activist, based Dhaka, Bangladesh

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