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Happy New Year and corona...

Written by Antje on April 20th 2020 20:40

Yesterday was the Bengal New Year. Normally it is a holiday with time for a parade, games, a kind of fair with tasty snacks and a cultural program. It is one of the festivals, which is equally accessible to all people in Bangladesh — to all religions and without political connotations. 

This year it was terribly quiet. Everyone was at home, and there were no parties. This picture is a drawing of a flat in a good neighborhood… Notice the people below in full PPE (personal protective equipment). 

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The last major event we had before Corona’s arrival was our organization's, LAMB Hospital, picnic, on Feb. 28. I had just returned a few days earlier from my furlough. We left early in the morning, nicely dressed in 13 buses from our hospital grounds:

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We drove to a ‘picknick spot’: a place where many companies / organizations come with their staff to see the park, purchase inexpensive toys for their children and hopefully buy sweets. In addition, there is a packed lunch for everyone. I don’t really like these parks, which are full of people, so I choose to make the packed lunches instead of checking out the park. Here we filling plastic bags with lentils:

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Here are the packed lunches-with rice, goat curry, barbecue chicken and linzen. A small bottle of seven-up is also included:

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The line to get your packed lunch! It takes quite some organizing to distribute 600 lunch packets!

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But shortly after the picnic, the threat of Covid-19 became more real: first of all, there were more and more reports about the epidemic in Europe. People returning to Bangladesh from China and Europe were also in quarantine, schools closed… And finally March 26 brought a ‘lockdown’. Public transportation stopped, most shops are closed and non essential jobs work at home. That sounds similar to the situation in the Netherlands.

What is very different here in Bangladesh is that we have a very large group of people who work in the ‘informal economy’: these are day-wage workers, people with small tea shops, people who sell sweets where there is traffic jam, people who drive rickshaws. For the last 3 weeks all of these people now have no income and therefore have no money to buy food. Help programs have now been set up to help these people eat…

Another group of people affected are people who work as household help. Many families are afraid to let people in from outside.

 

Another group of people affected are people who work as household help. Many families are afraid to let people in from outside. 

Getting enough protective suits has been a problem for a long time. That seems to be getting better now. In the photo one of our doctors is wearing a donated suit, to thank the donor. So far we have not had any real suspicious patients. 

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Since the beginning of the crisis, most private clinics have been closed and only emergency patients are seen in most places. We aim to at least maintain the care for pregnant women and help during the delivery.

 

The healthcare system in Bangladesh is really inadequate for a real epidemic. There are almost no ICs with ventilation capacity. If an epidemic really strikes here, many people will die. We pray hard that it will not be devistating. However, many new cases have been confirmed in the past week, throughout the country, partly because more tests can now be given.

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