Burial of Covid-19 Patients in Mymensingh: Women volunteers step up to the plate
The pandemic situation is dire in Mymensingh Even after Mymensingh Medical College Hospital increased the number of beds in its Covid-19 unit from 210 to 500, the hospital's 20-bed ICU remains at capacity due to the onrush of critical patients.
Dr Mohiuddin Khan Moon, focal person of MMCH Covid-19 unit, said the number of admitted patients at the unit was 222 on July 1, but drastically rose to 478 by Sunday.
Until yesterday, a total of 162 Covid patients and 247 suspected patients died at the hospital. According to the official report of the health department in Mymensingh, there has been 362 reported since the onset of the pandemic.
With so many deaths comes the need for as many burials. Though this may not register on the surface, this is an immensely difficult task, one that adds to the brutality of the pandemic.
Ali Yusuf and his team of volunteers have been carrying out burial rites at the district since almost the beginning of the pandemic last year. But despite their good intentions, they kept hitting a roadblock when it came to gender. As all of his volunteers were men, this was a religious issue while burying deceased women.
But thankfully, four women volunteers stepped up to join their cause. Shamima Akter Sumi (37), popularly known as Kabya Sumi Sarker; Tania Yeasmin (36), Rozi Yeasmin (40), and Tahmina Afrin (18), all hailing from different areas of Mymensingh city, joined the team on July 20. They began their work with the burial of deceased woman at the city's Akua area.
Tania began her journey down this path after she and her house-help first attended the burial of a woman at the city's Eidgah area. While there, she noted there was no one to bathe the deceased. With some free time on her hand -- though down to an unfortunate firing from her NGO job post-pandemic -- the mother of two decided to join the volunteers' group run by Mymensingh District Administration.
Kabya Sumi was a Covid-19 patient herself, along with her two daughters, and only recently recovered from it. Founding president of the Divisional Blood Society -- a free blood-donation forum 00 Sumi had prior experience with volunteering work, also running Anwara Karim Samaj Kallayan Sangstha at Khaloipura village in Phulbaria upazila.
Sumi is also the founder principal of Mymensingh Divisional School and College and president of Mymensingh Divisional Sahitya Parishad.
The youngest of the lot, Tahmina Afrin, an HSC student, said she recently visited her ailing mother at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital and found many family members of Covid-19 deceased in distressed state.
This hit her to the core. The daughter of a bus driver decided to do something for the Covid-19 deceased and soon joined the female team.
"When I saw Ali Yusuf struggling to manage the female dead bodies, I decided to join the volunteers," said Rozy Yeasmin, also a mother of two.
"I'm very satisfied with the joining of the four of them. It has made life easier for us," Ali told this correspondent.
50-year-old Ali and his 12-member team including the four women have so far buried and cremated 65 Covid-19 deceased, irrespective of religious affiliations.
69-year-old freedom fighter Bimol Pal, a prominent member of the team, said their job has become significantly easier since the female volunteers joined.
"We had been looking for women who can do burial rites since we were facing gender issues in some cases," said social activist Bimol, popularly known as "Muktijuddher Golper Feriwala" in Mymensingh region.
Expressing gratitude to Sharif Ahmed, state minister for State Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Bimol said the minister has mobilised an ambulance facility at no-cost to carry Covid-19 patients and dead bodies since July 25.
In another bit of good news, for their round-the-clock oxygen service in the city, Bimol said they now have a stock of 52 oxygen cylinders collected from different quarters.