Bangladesh is a country with more than 170 million people. Dhaka, the capital, is the largest growing city in the world with more than 20 million people. Social distancing is impossible for the majority of the Bangladesh citizens and since the first case of the virus was reported on March 7, it has quickly spread particularly in the city of Naranyanganj which is just south of the capital. Daily more people are infected and a national lockdown has been in place now since 26 March. It has been extended until April 26. This has brought with it untold hardship as poverty and starvation become real issues. All of the garment factories which employ hundreds of thousands of people remain closed and worse than that importers of Bangladeshi clothing have cancelled orders or refused to pay for goods they have already received. The informal economy on which millions of people survive has vanished.
As we are an Action Group, with just a tiny presence in Bangladesh, it was impossible to do nothing. So RFHA Bangladesh has done three projects so far.
First we have chosen a village and provided 150 families there with food parcels enough to last two weeks. Most of the families have no other means of support. Each food parcel cost about $12US and so we have raised some donations to help with these. A further food parcel will be distributed to the same families on 22 April, two days before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
The second project was to hire two ambulances for the city of Naranyanganj. This is the worst affected area in Bangladesh and this response was so welcome by the Mayor and the city officials. The Mayor has already given her enthusiastic support to RFHA and is grateful for our partnership on this unique project during this crisis.
The third project was to provide PPE gear for 200 policemen and women. To keep these people safe as they go about their front line duties which includes collecting the bodies of those who have lost the fight to the virus.
The focus of RFHA Inc is on the public/private partnerships which are working together across the globe to bring together critical services to those whom need it most. Bangladesh is a country which will be hosting their first Rotary Family Health Days Program in 2021. When we begin our work to establish Family Health Days in Naranyanganj the city and its surrounding districts will already know the name of RFHA. They will welcome us with open arms as an organisation which has shown itself to be there in their hour of greatest need.