On top of the ongoing cooperation programme in Bangladesh, the European Union has allocated 334 million Euros and promised mobilising more funds in near future to mitigate the economic and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EU announcement, made in a videoconference attended by Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and European ambassadors on Wednesday, came when Bangladesh faces multiple challenges that are undermining the country's growth and poverty level might grow up.
"Covid-19 knows no borders and hits the most vulnerable hardest. Team Europe's support of some EUR 334 million will assist Bangladesh government in providing support to those who are most affected by Covid-19, in terms of health and livelihoods," said EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, Rensje Teerink, in a statement.
Of the new allocated amount, a 93 million Euro grant by EU and 20 million Euro German grant will help Bangladesh provide cash assistance to workers in export-oriented industries, and contribute to boost the resilience of the national social protection system.
In addition, the French Development Agency will support Bangladesh with EUR 150 million to improve the country's social protection measures. 64.8 million Euro (16.5 million Euro from the EU plus 48.3 million from Germany) will be used to scale up interventions through the UN and NGO partners for vulnerable Bangladeshi host communities and Rohingya in Cox's Bazar.
Some 5.5 million Euro are earmarked for strengthening Bangladesh's research and health systems.
Furthermore, an EU grant of 246,000 Euro will assist the Directorate General of Health Services with operational and technical support. In addition, Sweden is supporting the health sector through UN and NGOs with the programmes on urban health [1,385,000 Euro ]; 'WASH, Handwashing Facilities and Information in Urban Slums' (462,000 Euro) and the 'Midwifery Programme with PPE, Training and Triage' (462,000 Euro).
Another grant of 714,383 Euro will address the urgent needs of ultra-poor and vulnerable people in urban areas of Dhaka and rural areas.
Foreign Minister Momen thanked the ambassadors from the EU, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland for the assistance.
At the videoconference, the ambassadors highlighted the issue of press freedom in Bangladesh. In response, Abdul Momen said Bangladesh too believes in it, and claimed that "There is complete freedom of speech and media."
However, he said, freedom without responsibility may result in social chaos and indiscipline.
Rights groups recently criticised the government for arrest of a number of journalists under Digital Security Act, while a number of foreign ambassadors took to the social media to highlight freedom of press is more important now than ever during the pandemic.
On concerns over spread of Covid-19 in the Rohingya camps, Momen said the government is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the pandemic is contained, and there is minimal spread of the virus in the camps.
On ambassadors' concerns that there was no mobile internet in Rohingya camps, the minister said the functionaries would be able to access the internet and 4G services from their offices and accommodations, but for security reasons, the government has downgraded 4G services in the Rohingya camps.
"For security reasons; to stop drug trafficking, to stop trafficking of women and children, provoking people to create lawlessness and to stop blue films, the government had to downgrade 4G services in the camp area," Momen told the ambassadors.