ARBAN is an NGO involved in socio-economic research and development activities in vulnerable and marginalized areas of Bangladesh
Imams at 700 mosques and 30 journalists working for various news organizations in Netrokona have come together as part of a community network fighting to slow the spread of Covid-19 across the district.
The network of community influencers, which is helping to raise awareness and reduce stigma over the disease, assisting with contact tracing and sample collection, as well as providing food aid to hundreds of extremely poor families, was put together by Activity for Reformation of Basic Needs -- ARBAN, a local non-profit organization.
The initiative is an example of civil society organizations and community groups stepping up to support the national Covid-19 response, working in tandem with the local authorities.
ARBAN is an NGO involved in socio-economic research and development activities in vulnerable and marginalized areas of Bangladesh. Since inception in 2010, ARBAN has implemented youth engagement, skill development and digital inclusion projects in various districts across the country. The organization won the national youth award in 2019 for its work in youth engagement.
Since the first Covid-19 patient was identified in Netrokona on April 10, more than 110 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the district, according to the civil surgeon's office.
Health workers have been struggling to stem the spread of the infection, fighting an uphill battle to get people to change their hygiene behaviour and stay home to avoid the virus.
In order to reinforce key health messages and to induce behaviour change, ARBAN has turned to faith leaders and journalists, two influential groups. ARBAN has held orientation sessions with both imams and local journalists, providing information about the spread of the disease and their roles and responsibilities.
Imams, oriented by ARBAN, have been conducting burials using modified religious practices in line with health regulations, make it easier for communities to comply with the urgent need for safe and dignified burials.
The imams use verses from the Quran to support health messaging, helping health workers raise awareness in the community about ways to combat the coronavirus. By preaching the need to behave in a humane way towards coronavirus patients, the imams are also helping reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
ARBAN volunteers have handed out hygiene kits containing soap and sanitizers at more than 700 mosques, urging worshippers to maintain social distancing while praying.
ARBAN has mobilized local journalists to help raise public awareness and assist the local health authorities with contact tracing of suspected Covid-19 patients and sample collections.
Since the local reporters have extensive sources within the community, they are able to help locate suspected Covid-19 patients and advise people to self-quarantine.
The reporters have been given orientation on how to improve reporting during a public health crisis.
ARBAN has given them personal protective equipment in order to keep them safe while carrying out community engagement.
ARBAN has also deployed roving multimedia centres -- auto rickshaws fitted with sound systems and displaying Covid-19 posters, in 11 unions of Purbadhala upazila in Netrokona.
All activities are being carried out in conjunction with local authorities including local chairmen, police, and the local health complexes, according to ARBAN.
As part of efforts to help the disadvantaged communities in Purbadhala upazila, ARBAN has provided food aid to 200 extremely poor families.