• Sunday, Jul 05, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:33 am

Covid-19 pandemic: Munda people of Satkhira struggle for survival

  • Published at 06:01 pm May 2nd, 2020
Women of Munda community sit idle as the coronavirus pandemic renders them helpless in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira Dhaka Tribune

Most of them live surrounding the Sundarbans mangrove forest and depend on the ecology for their subsistence and livelihoods

The Munda community are a small ethnic group, which, with roots in India, moved to the southernmost coastal regions of Bangladesh some 300 years ago and has been here ever since.

Known for their great work in agriculture in the local fields, the Munda have their own distinctive language, culture and customs.  Their ethnic roots distinguish them from other groups. But due to heavy integration with surrounding communities, they have almost lost the thread of their own heritage and are on the verge of becoming a forgotten people.

They currently do not possess any land of their own but have managed to settle down through the help of some private organizations working in their interests.

There are 460 Munda families living in eight coastal unions of Shyamnagar upazila in Satkhira, comprising over 3,000 people. The literacy rate among the community is quite low and only a handful number of people have had basic education.

Most of them live on the periphery of the Sundarbans mangrove forest and depend on the ecology for their subsistence and livelihood.

Besides, some of them also work as day labourers and live hand-to-mouth. For them, a day without work means they do not get to have food on their plates.

Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, the Munda people have been caught in a situation where they are without jobs and are therefore unable to fend for themselves without stable incomes. 

Some families say they managed to stock up a month’s worth of food and necessities ahead of all the restrictions but that is about to run out any moment.

Around 200 families say they were given relief materials through government and non-government initiatives but in very small proportions, which ran out in only a couple of days.  

Kanika Munda, of Datinakhali, said she used to work at a crab farm, which has now shut down following the coronavirus outbreak. “I am now stuck at home without a job and without any income. I don’t think we can go on like this for very long.”

Foni Munda, of Dhumghat, said: “I used to work at a brick kiln. After it was shut down, I had got some payments in advance but that’s all gone now. I don’t have any money now and I am worried about my family and children.”

Krishnapada Mandal, director of Sundarban Adibasi Munda Sangstha (SAMS), said the organisation was an NGO that worked for the welfare of the Munda community. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to provide relief materials among the community so far.”

Speaking on the issue, Shyamnagar Upazila Parishad Chairman Ataul Hoque said: “We have not stopped distributing relief materials among the indigenous communities and will continue to do so as long as the global pandemic persists. If there are people who are need of aid and of support, we are only a call away from coming to their assistance.”

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