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Bangladesh is being devastated by the delta variant. BRAC is building a fort of resistance within communities to combat the virus. We are racing against time and building the plane as we are flying. More from Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC Bangladesh:
Dear colleagues, partners and friends,
The delta variant is spreading far and wide. Daily reported deaths have crossed 200. The under-equipped health system is stretched to its limit.
BRAC is building a fort of resistance within communities to combat COVID-19. Our community-level resilience-building work through the Community Fort in Resisting COVID-19 (CFRC) project in 35 districts – predominantly in the border areas – is progressing at full swing, and is starting to show encouraging results.
We are seeing a big uptick in people seeking tele-medicine support through our healthcare networks, which indicates the demand for services from home. However, these are still early days.
As the saying goes, ‘If you build it, they will come’. Based on the success of the NORM model, and with the support of Professor Mushfiq Mubarak, Hanes, a US apparel company, is donating 80 million masks to Bangladesh. BRAC is taking the responsibility of bringing these masks to communities across the country. We will then also distribute them through our nationwide Community Fort project, its partners and representatives. This is a big development. We are grateful to Open Society for quickly agreeing to fund the large shipping cost of 90 containers of masks. We are currently working to ensure that we get tax exemption from the government.
We are happy to announce that the Swiss government has come forward to plug the hole in our budget with a contribution of USD 2.5 million as a part of its USD 10 million support for Bangladesh to fight COVID-19.
With the strict lockdown crossing its second week and informal economic activities crawling, the daily wage workers, particularly urban slum dwellers, are desperate for support now. Immediate cash support is necessary. Like last year, BRAC is going to launch another call for support to provide cash transfer through digital wallets for those who need it the most. We are talking to a number of banks to support us, along with mobilising internal contributions as well. Last year, we provided cash support of BDT 1500 each to 365,000 households from our own funds and contributions from our partners.
Based on the early evidence of our intervention, the ongoing health debacle in the rural areas across the border that we were predicting, and the misery the lockdown is bringing on to the people living in low-income communities, this much should be obvious: there is no alternative to nationwide mask wearing and vaccination.
Thankfully, the supply chain for vaccines has opened up again and vaccination registration has restarted. We now need everyone to come forward and join this community-level engagement. I welcome you to see this 12-minute video above, produced by Yale University for a webinar organised by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies on 9 June, with all the key policy makers taking part. The urgency of acting fast is upon us.
Early evidence from the community fort intervention, which began on 1 June 2021 can be found here.
Thank you for all your support, and I hope you stay safe in the coming days, which are not going to be easy.
Asif Saleh is Executive Director of BRAC.