• Thursday, Jan 20, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

Covid-19 pandemic sees volunteers' outstanding role

  • Published at 10:34 pm March 8th, 2021
Coronavirus-Death-Al Markazul Islami bury Covid-19 victim maintaining WHO guideline-janaza
File photo of a Covid-19 victim given a burial in Dhaka Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Since the pandemic broke out in the country, many have come forward to assist people who found themselves in a tight corner

When Dhaka city, the epicentre of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, wore a deserted look following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown at the end of March last year, a few people and organizations were out there voluntarily to put things in order and help those affected by the pandemic.

Apart from some members of the law enforcement agencies, there were some commoners who put their lives at risk to attend to Covid-19 patients and handle the dead along with arranging funerals when their family members and relatives deserted them. 

The health authorities in Bangladesh reported the first three cases of Covid-19 on March 8 and the first fatality on March 18. 

Since the pandemic broke out in the country, several politicians, local representatives and social workers tried to give their utmost efforts in assisting people who found themselves in a tight corner.

Dhaka Tribune talked to a few of them to draw a picture of their efforts in combating the malady.

Al-Markazul Islami, a multiple service providing organization, stepped forward as part of carrying out responsibilities voluntarily on humanitarian grounds, to perform final rites for those who died in the pandemic. 

Up to 10 people were brought in to take part in funeral prayers before burying confirmed or suspected Covid-19 victims since the government had decreed social distancing measures.

Relatives and neighbours of most of the deceased refrained from attending the whole burial process, staying away even from funeral prayers.

Following strict guidelines, the organization collected bodies from hospitals upon information and carried them to its own hospital in Mohammadpur via specialized ambulances.

Al-Markazul performed the final rites, including bathing the bodies, dressing them in shrouds and offering funeral prayers, all free of cost.

Covering a body with a polythene bag at first, and then putting it in a body bag, a team of six people took the deceased to either a graveyard or a crematorium according to the religious belief of the victim.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been providing the organisation with body bags and shrouds, Al-Markazul acting chairman Hamza Shahidul Islam said at the time.

Since he is out of the country now, this correspondent talked to Farid Ahmad, in-charge of the organization. 

Farid said the organisation had carried out burials of around 3,350 Covid-19 confirmed and suspected victims till March 6.

"We only run operations inside Dhaka city and now up to five cases come a day. We are now only preparing the body up to covering it with a body bag after giving it a bath. Relatives are out of fear now and they do the rest of the burial process. We encourage people by telling them that there is nothing to fear," he said. 

The two city corporations in Dhaka on March 19 last year designated the Taltola graveyard in Khilgaon for the burial of Covid-19 victims. 

Md Joban Ali, 45, an employee of the graveyard for the last four and a half years, said he himself had been reluctant to take part in the first burial process of a Covid-19 victim.

Despite being discouraged by his spouse several times, Joban later continued carrying out his duties, braving the fear of becoming infected.

Leading a team of four gravediggers, he has performed burials of 194 Covid-19 patients and suspected patients so far.

Father of four children, Joban said: "I am still not infected with Covid-19. My parents used to encourage me to take part in the burial process."

Countrywide burials

In most places of the country, Quantum Foundation conducts burial work in association with the ICRC.

Besides, Man for Man Force, a social voluntary organization authorized by the government to bury Covid-19 victims in Savar, is continuing its work.

In addition, Shabab Foundation makes all arrangements for burials in Jhalakathi's Nalchity upazila.

Feeding low-income people 

Tanbir Hasan Shaikat, a former member of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) and leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League, along with a team of volunteers cooked and distributed food among the poor for 116 days uninterruptedly around the university campus during the pandemic.

Marking World Humanitarian Day 2020, the United Nations recognized him as a "real life hero" for his contribution to humanitarian work.

"There is nothing more peaceful in the world than watching  smiles on the faces of the underprivileged. I found my bliss amid those activities," Shaikat told Dhaka Tribune.

Caring for animals

Tauhid Tanjim, a Dhaka University postgraduate student of Computer Science and Engineering Department, fed stray dogs tirelessly for around six months on the Dhaka streets, at a time when  the animals hardly found any food even in the dustbins.

However, Obhoyaronno - Bangladesh Animal Welfare Foundation, People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Foundation, Stella Animal Welfare Foundation, Care for Paws (CFP), We are Nature and Animal Lovers took better care during the pandemic closure, protested against a relocation of stray dogs from Dhaka South City Corporation areas.

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