By Syed Ali Biswas
Covid-19 is a pandemic situation which poses the global world to danger and risk today. People of all classes and religions across the world are in panic and anxious. It creates negative impacts on economy, health, education and social interactions. The Covid-19 situation also has posed a major challenge to people of the globe on how they combat the situation and secure their health as well as economic life. Bangladesh being a poor country in South Asia is also one of affected countries of this pandemic.
The country reported corona positive person in March, 2020. BARCIK realizing the severe impact of this newly arrived virus arranged and organized discussions, dialogues and campaigns with the local government, policy makers, civil society and journalists since February with the aim to create mass awareness and to persuade the state authority taking substantial steps to stop the spread of this virus. The government of Bangladesh declared General Holidays that was executed from 25 March to 31 May, 2020 to stop mass gathering as well as public gathering with the aim to stop the spread of this virus. But the mass people particularly the poor faced immense crisis of foods as they could not earn. Considering this fact, the government could not execute a total lock down that could restrict human movement and protect the spread of the virus.
Staff level communication and coordination
During the lock down and general holidays declared by the government all offices (Dhaka and regions) of BARCIK remained closed (Physical presence) but the staffs were told to stay in their working station. BARCIK during this time opened a Messenger group named ‘Pandemic corona and BARCIK initiatives’ where all the staffs together shared information, initiatives and their concerns to each other and become updated.
The communication and coordination with the staffs of BARCIK in all regions has been done through this messenger groups interactions. In the same time, the directors of all regions opened a messenger group and Facebook paged through which they communicated and coordinated the whole working process of the regions with the staffs assigned in those regions. BARCIK also arranged online meeting with all staffs using zoom.
Constant communication and information sharing with communities
BARCIK preserves the mobile numbers of all the communities its works with through its database. The organization made mobile communication as well as where possible virtual communication those communities with the aim to update them regarding the corona situation as well as to inspire them continuing their agriculture production, discuss regarding the disasters, problems and possibilities in agriculture. The presidents of the People organizations played a lead role in this mobile and virtual sharing and interaction and they shared information and other guidelines with other members of the organizations. However, after 3 months, particularly in June BARCIK started to visit villages and interacted with the communities twice weeks following health guidelines maintaining the virtual communication as usual. The rate of communication with the communities increases during this pandemic corona but the rate of group communication and joint venture comparatively less. Thus, it has been seen that during this corona situation a BARCIK staff communicated with 4-5 villages and organizations every day and provided information and guidelines to them.
The leaders of these organizations being guided by BARCIK also maintained communication with the people of their villages and provided information and guidelines to them to boost the production system. BARCIK produced a report based on this communication flow with the communities which tells that during the pandemic corona a BARCIK staff communicated with 20 people every day on average. Thus, the working process as well as communication flow to assist the communities did not get stagnant during this covid-19 situation.
Mass awareness and digital campaign
BARCIK took initiative to conduct digital campaigns for creating mass awareness on Covid-19. The organization produced and distributed leaflet, festoons, billboard and posters that bear the health and awareness information regarding how people could protect themselves from the Covid-19 and how they could follow the health guidelines.
BARCIK also shared this information and digital posters, leaflet, festoons and billboard in social networks so that it could make the people aware as much as possible. The organization also shared the different health instructions, guidelines and other related information to the communities on regular basis.
Inspiration to farmers to boost production
Most of the community people are involved in agriculture. The three food production seasons were undergone during the pandemic corona situation. The lock down, general holidays, closed markets and crisis of labor posed major challenges in food production systems during this corona situation. The farmers have to prepare seedbeds for Aman crops and harvest the Boro crops during this times. Besides, they have to face disasters such as floods, cyclones, less rainfall etc. However, considering these facts, BARCIK made regular communication with farmers, agriculture departments and farmers & youth organizations. Thus, it has been seen that the farmers and youth organizations played major role doing campaign works for ensuring agriculture materials for the farmers.
The farmers’ organization exchanged seeds with each other and encouraged farmers to preserve more seeds for cultivation. The farmers also were encouraged to prepare organic manure, and farmed vegetable in every fallow lands of their homestead and fields. The youths who came home due to the corona from the towns were encouraged to get involved in agriculture works. As result of this inspiration and encouragement, the youths helped farmers to harvest their Boro crops, prepared seedbeds and some of the unemployed youths were found to farm vegetable as well. They also made campaigns to ensure fair price of farmers’ crops. Thus, it has been through these different initiatives and inspiration the production systems were made dynamic leading Bangladesh not to face any food deficiency/crisis during this corona situation.
Extending assistance to marginal communities
The corona situation brought immense crisis and problems to the people who live from hand to mouth particularly the marginal Dalit, poor senior citizens, differently abled people and the day laborers. The lock down declared by the government posed them to financial crisis. However, in response to this, BARCIK communicated with the representatives of local government and leaders of people’s organization and provided them necessary materials such as soap, masks, and hand sanitizers to enable them combating corona situation.
BARCIK prepared a list of marginal, helpless and poor people and submitted the list to the local government persuading the authorities to provide assistance to these needy and helpless communities. As a result of this initiative, most of the helpless women, marginal communities, differently abled people, and senior citizens in the working areas of BARCIK received assistance and materials from both the government and NGOs. Besides, BARCIK conducted campaigns in media, social network and virtual platform to point out what steps the government, society could take to protect the senior citizens and differently abled people. The initiatives taken by BARCIK as well as assistance and advices from both the government and private institution inspired and encouraged the helpless and marginal communities in the working areas.
Bridging the communities with the governmental administration
Combating the corona pandemic is a major task and requires integral initiatives. Government alone could not fight against these unseen enemies. Therefore, during this time BARCIK closely worked with the local administration and local communities to make people aware.
However, discussing with the leaders of the communities BARCIK identified that the most pressing problems the communities faced during this pandemic corona include: Providing health services to senior citizens and differently abled people, unemployment of the day laborers, food crisis, crisis of agriculture materials and marketing agro-produces and financial shocks etc. Thus, BARCIK in order to help the communities and solve their problems, communicated with the local government and administration and persuaded them to provide assistance and help the communities based on their needs. The intervention and coordination made by BARCIK helped the communities to lead their life and fight against the unseen enemy corona virus.
Exclusive initiative taken by BARCIK
In spite of some limitations, BARCIK took initiatives with support from government and youth organizations to help the marginal communities during the corona situation. In the initial stage, the organization provided foods and other things to the helpless and marginal communities. Besides, the youths in Netrakona provided masks and hand sanitizers to the communities to help them combating the corona situation.
Following are the exclusive initiatives taken by BARCIK:
- Shifting the market to other place to avoid public gathering,
- Getting involved in government initiatives in assisting the communities,
- Spraying germ killing fluid, sanitizers and making mass awareness
- Helping farmers harvesting their crops,
- Encouraging the rich communities to stand beside the poor,
- Helping farmers to sell their agriculture products,
- Assisting farmers to conserve seeds, exchange seeds with other farmers
- encouraging women, youths and farmers to make proper use of their homestead and fallow lands by farming diverse crops and vegetable
- Creating 400 model nutrition houses in 4 working areas and
- Encouraging youths and other classes of people to plant 50 thousands area suitable local varieties of trees in 4 working areas etc.
During this pandemic situation BARCIK made proper use of its communication and knowledge management activities through its online news portal and website. BARCIK uploaded news, feature, best stories and other forms of information, communication and education (ICE) materials and shared in large platform to create mass awareness on Covid-19 situation. Besides, through these online ICE materials BARCIK shared health guidelines, nutrition intake and advices provided by the expert to the communities. BARCIK also created Messenger and Facebook groups and continued to share awareness messages, information and guidelines to the larger communities. In addition, the organization did publish both online and print billboard, poster, leaflet, and pamphlet and disseminated among the communities.
Translated by Silvanus Lamin