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Saber Hossain: Better coordination among ministries needed to tackle the pandemic

  • Published at 12:18 am July 3rd, 2020
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Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP COURTESY

For the people, the government is a single entity, says the ruling party MP

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, member of parliament from Dhaka 9 constituency said the government needs to ensure better coordination among different wings to send comprehensible messages to its citizens about Covid-19. 

He said people in Bangladesh do not really see the different ministries of the government as separate entities because the government is a single entity for them.

“I see some ministers keep on saying that this or that is not the responsibility of their ministry and other ministries should look over it,” he said, adding this kind of statement makes people more confused about the whole Covid-19 situation.

“I think the government should have a spokesperson who would provide all kinds of information about the situation to the citizens of Bangladesh,” he said. 

He was speaking at a policy webinar on Smart Containment Strategies for Covid-19 in Bangladesh, organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Brac University on Thursday evening.

Dr Abu S Shonchoy, assistant professor at Florida International University said disseminating information in the right way could help bring behavioural changes among the citizens of Bangladesh. 

“If the authorities can provide zip-code-wise information about Covid-19 situation to different areas, residents in those areas would be more aware because they get localized information,’ he said.  

He also pointed out that targeting the right section to provide information is crucial and in Bangladesh, mothers are usually the ones who are more protective towards the safety of their families.

Dr Minhaj Mahmud, a senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said both trust and cooperation is very important when people are expected to comply voluntarily.

While moderating the webinar, Imran Matin, country director in Bangladesh of International Growth Center (IGC) and executive director at BIGD, said social stigma centring the disease has affected social behaviours in this pandemic.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury recommended including celebrities and influencers to promote behavioural changes and break the social stigma. 

“Take the example of mountaineer Wasfia Nazreen or cricketer Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. They both had tested positive and their voices can reach to a large section of people in Bangladesh,” he said.  

UNO of Durgapur, Netrokona Farzana Khanom said the real challenge they face while creating awareness in the community is that most of the people have so many prejudices and misconceptions about this contagious disease. 

“I came across some people who are financially not well-off and think they have some sort of natural immunity to the virus. Therefore, they do not need to follow the health guidelines like the rich people,” she said. 

She also pointed out a large section of elderly people have been acting more recklessly during the pandemic. 

“Many of them do not want to maintain social distancing in mosques or follow any health guidelines. They tend to say life and death are in god’s hands,” she said. 

The speakers at the webinar also said policymakers should emphasize on making mask usage a habit among the citizens.  

Saber Hossain also said that using the right term is important for habit formation.

“The government announced a general holiday after the outbreak but people here in Bangladesh assumed general holiday brought them an opportunity to travel home. It is because the term general holiday is associated with heading back home and a family reunion,” he said. 

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