The government has no financial assistance program yet, for poor people whose only bread earner died from Covid-19
Thirty-four-year-old Hafizur Rahman used to run his family by selling fish at a market at Kotwali in Rangpur city.
He used to lead a good life with the decent income he had from selling fish.
However, Hafizur’s life suddenly took a turn for the worst due to severe back pain. After his family members rushed him to a private clinic in Shyamoli, Dhaka, he was diagnosed with kidney failure.
One of his kidneys was damaged and to save his life, his relatives borrowed Tk6 lakh and got him a kidney transplant.
After the kidney transplant, Hafizur went back to his daily routine and was doing quite well, selling fish and repaying the debt.
He was very happy as his son’s education was going well and then he became the father of another child.
Hafizur wanted to buy a few pieces of land in the outskirts of Rangpur city. He also told his wife that all of their economic crises will go away when their two sons grow up.
But the Covid-19 pandemic shattered his dreams after he lost his battle with the deadly virus on June 29.
Hafizur’s passing has put his wife Rawshan Begum in a deep crisis financially, and she is very worried about how to bear the expenses of the family.
Rawshan while speaking with Dhaka Tribune said Hafizur was admitted to the Centre for Kidney Disease and Urology Hospital at Shyamoli on June 23. After six days of treatment and a bill of Tk80,000, he tested Covid-19 positive.
Later, he was transferred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital on June 29 where doctors declared him dead.
''Hafizur’s brother-in-law still owes Tk4 lakh for the kidney transplant. We have no land except for a small house. Our eldest son is in fifth-grade, the youngest son is going to be one year old. What can I do to buy the daily essentials in this situation?'' Rawshan asked in a tearful voice.
Hafizur’s younger brother Humayun Kabir said: “My brother was the only bread earner. Now we are seeing darkness due to me being unemployed and the huge burden of repaying the loan we took for his treatment.”
Many on the verge of living on the streets
Similar to the tragic story of Hafizur and his family, many others are also in the same situation and have also lost their only earner of the family to Covid-19; those families are on the verge of living on the streets.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), a total of 2,965 people died from coronavirus infections till July 27.
Of the total deaths, 0.61% were newborns to 10 years old; 1.01% between ages of 11 to 20; 2.83% between ages of 21 to 30 years; 6.68% between ages of 31 to 40 years; 14.23% between ages of 41 to 50 years; 28.97% between ages of 51 to 60; and 45.67% of those were aged 61 years and over.
Population Science experts said people between the ages of 15 to 59 are considered economically active. Of those who died between the ages of 15 to 59, 53.72% were economically active.
This correspondent contacted family members of at least 11 deceased who were between the ages of 20 to 50 years. In addition to mourning the loss of the only earner, these families are now in dire financial straits. Some families who used to live in Dhaka had to move to villages.
No financial assistance
The Prime Minister has declared that government officials and employees will get financial assistance if they are infected or die from Covid-19.
On April 23, the Ministry of Finance issued a circular that doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police, local administration officers if infected with Covid-19, will be given Tk5 lakh to Tk10 lakh.
The circular also said if a government officer dies of coronavirus, that person’s family will receive Tk25 to Tk50 lakh as financial assistance from the government.
According to the experts, the deaths of ordinary people in this global epidemic have no value. Their wives and children will have to suffer financially to survive.
Those Covid-19 patients, who are working in the private sector but do not get financial assistance from their place of work will find it difficult to cope up with the financial crisis in future to run the family's wheel, experts added.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said: “If a low-income earner suddenly dies, the family will face long-term financial problems along with emotional turmoil. If these families get automatic assistance through social pension and social security programs, at least financial problems will be resolved.”
He said the government can identify and provide one-time financial assistance to those families who lost their only one earning member due to Covid-19. At the same time, those who died through other diseases being the families’ only earning member, the government should also bring them under this assistance.
The victims whose family members died of Covid-19 said the crisis was hampering their children's education.
So the government needs to take steps to ensure that the children do not have to do risky work at an early age to run the household.
Among such helplessness is the family of Atabar Hossain, 46, a resident of Abdullahpur in Keraniganj on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Atabar, a middle-aged man, was a rickshaw-puller who earned a living for his family and sent his three children to school.
He died on June 28 at a hospital in the capital with Covid-19.
Kamal Hossain, his brother-in-law said: “Not a single ambulance could be found to bring Atabar’s body to Keraniganj. My sister, nieces, and nephews are at my house now, but I myself have limited income to run my family.
“Right now, I cannot think of any solution. I do not know how my sister’s family will run, how will the children continue their education and will they even have to take jobs as child labourers?” Kamal expressed with concern.