Throughout history, cultural activists have taken their own initiatives to step up during emergencies. In the fight against the current pandemic, a group of 65 cultural activists, including writers, doctors, and theatre performers, have come together to offer their services for the people in the country. Calling themselves the 'Sangskritikarmibrindya', the nonpolitical group has been working since March 25.
Theatre activist and founding member of BotTala, Mohammad Ali Haider, spoke about the activities of the group. "In order to protect people from COVID-19 infections, we have been working on publicity videos, translations, dubbing, funding for area-based independent initiatives and PPE for physicians, as per the World Health Organization guidelines. We have raised funds and contributed to activists at Bidyanondo, Mojar School and many other organisations," he explains.
On the other hand, they have made eleven demands to the government to fight against the pandemic. Dr Samina Luthfa, Associate Professor of Department of Sociology at University of Dhaka, who is also a founder member of BotTola spoke about fulfilling those demands. "The very first of the eleven points was to set up PCR labs in every district to ensure proper testing. I believe some work has been done in that regard and in the extension of the general holiday. I hope the rest will be fulfilled too," she says. However, she added that individual or small-scale aid is not a sustainable solution. "It is high time that our administration takes effective actions," she adds. "I believe that the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief can play an important role in delivering necessary materials to the marginalised communities of the country. It is also important that we prepare public and private hospitals, and build more temporary hospitals. We must learn from the fatal consequences in other countries."
On March 31, they made the following 11 demands:
- Immediately setting up of PCR labs at each district and upazila level where coronavirus tests will be ensured.
- Adequate test kits should be provided in all the government-run and private health centres across the country.
- Provide adequate PPE to the doctors.
- Person with slightest symptoms must be brought under examination.
- ICUs and ventilator systems should be launched in every health facility.
- Schools, colleges and stadiums should be immediately constructed for use as isolation centers.
- Preparing the list of low income people and ensure the supply of food to them through representatives and army if necessary.
- Volunteer teams should be created from specific populations. They should be provided with adequate security (PPE) and training.
- General holidays should be extended to prevent community transmission.
- Efforts should be made to raise awareness about the need to staying home.
- Immediate action on ensuring accommodation of displaced and unsheltered population.
Mohammad Ali Haider also mentioned that a number of artistes with low incomes from different districts are facing problems. The group has also allocated funds to help such artistes in need. "These are very tough times. People must support each other and the authorities must show leadership," he says.