Non-government organisations have called upon the government to engage them in tackling the crisis caused by the outbreak of coronavirus, which is having far-reaching impacts on people, health and economy, especially on the poor and vulnerable communities across the country.
NGOs that have their presence in the grassroots level and always worked hand in hand with the government in disaster management should be incorporated in the activities for stronger coordination and greater reach, leaders of different alliances of NGOs said.
COAST Trust hosted a virtual press conference today, attended by the leaders of National Alliance of Humanitarian Actors, Bangladesh (NAHAB), Bangladesh CSO-NGO Coordination Process, Network for Information, Response and Preparedness Activities on Disaster (NIRAPA), Disaster Forum, Association of Development Agencies Bangladesh (ADAB) and Federation of NGOs Bangladesh (FNB).
"The season of flood, cyclone, and dengue is upcoming. If any of these risks are added to the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation will be grave. So, we need to be prepared," said ADAB Director AKM Jashim Uddin.
There are already many allegations of irregularities in providing relief to the people. If the actual target people are not listed for the benefits, the government assistance is not going to work effectively, he said.
"Food production is going to be a major important task. So, reaching incentives to the farmers and ensuring that they can harvest the Boro crop and then go for Aush is very important," he also said.
"The government should now activate the Disaster Management Act, involve the NGOs at national and grassroots for strong coordination and transparency," said Nurul Alam Masud, chief executive of Participatory Research and Action Network.
Citing the example of Kerala, Nayeem Gawher Wahra, member secretary of Disaster Forum, said the government could divide the geographical areas in some categories and allow certain level of economic activities in the green zone and food production to continue under certain mechanism.
He also suggested using community radio as a tool here to create mass awareness on social distancing and hygiene at the grassroots level.
Government assistance has yet to reach many remote areas of the country and availability of food is becoming an issue of concern, said Abul Haseeb Khan of NIRAPAD, adding that with no income, moderate poor are getting into the bracket of ultra-poor.
Independent researcher Abdul Latif Khan said UN agencies and INGOs should monitor and provide technical assistance and direct funding to the national and local NGOs, adding that the government should involve local NGOs, micro-finance institutions and civil society organisations in implementing activities in the grassroots to tackle Covid-19 impacts.
Latif also suggested increased focus on ensuring stronger health system in the rural areas.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of COAST Trust moderated the press conference.