Brac attempting to spread awareness among poor people to reduce Covid-19 transmissions, say officials
Shilpi Begum, a slum dweller from Rayer Bazar, does not know if there is any government doctor in her area or not.
"But there are health worker sisters who come into our house and give us necessary treatment, medicines, even masks," she added.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been many NGOs working for the low-income people like Shilpi Begum for free, including Brac. Brac has been trying to spread awareness among poor people to reduce the Covid-19 transmission rate in Bangladesh, said officials.
On Sunday, Brac was working to assist low-income people in the Rayer Bazar area under their ongoing Community Support Team Dhaka (CST Dhaka) program. The program is being implemented in collaboration with UNFPA and FAO, with the support of the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The program has been running since June and will continue through September. Brac believes around 21 million people will benefit from CST Dhaka.
Around 170 Brac community health workers and 136 volunteers are engaged in CST Dhaka in 68 wards of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
Two health workers are conducting household visits in slums to provide reusable masks based on set criteria, identify suspected Covid-19 cases, connect suspected cases with telemedicine and provide vaccine registration support.
Ayesha Ferdous, a health worker who has been working in Brac for the last 12 years, said: "I have to monitor almost 5,000 houses and huge numbers of people didn't want to wear masks initially, and many were against vaccination. People believed that they would die if they took the vaccine."
She added that it was reassuring that people had now changed their mindset on vaccination and health rules.
Brac said 799 individuals were supported with vaccine registration, 6,690 VVF suspected cases were identified, and 3,417 people received telemedicine under the project.
In the last four months, Brac has distributed 1.61 million masks and placed 408 handwashing stations in Dhaka under the project.
Vegetables sellers Mohammad Aslam and Alamgir said Brac built two handwashing stations in Sadek Khan Agricultural Market two months ago, and many people were benefitting from the stations. Besides, the market association does carry out campaigns for awareness.
"We haven’t noticed lack of water or soaps at the handwashing stations yet, but we didn't get masks from Brac previously. This is the first time we have gotten masks for free," Mohammad Aslam added.
Sakib Sheikh Joy, a volunteer, said: "In every ward, two volunteers are in charge of 20 points. Every day, we visit five points and distribute 100 masks at every point."
Another volunteer Md Rayhan said: "We are trying to inspire people by distributing leaflets and masks. We also teach them how to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands properly."
There are Change Agents at every point who pour water in the drums and provide soap when it is finished.
As schools have reopened, CST Dhaka volunteers are also distributing reusable masks and handwashing supplies to 600 schools in the two city corporations.
Engaging religious leaders
Brac has engaged religious leaders in Dhaka to ensure sustainability of key practices in their community after the project period.
Aman Ullah, imam of Jafrabad Jame Masjid (mosque), said: "Till now, we have gotten three packets of masks from Brac and are distributing them among the worshipers."
He said people initially did not want to use a mask during prayers, but now everyone are using masks and trying to maintain social distance.
Every day, almost 500 people come to pray and the mosque committee distributes the masks to those people who did not bring one, the imam said, adding that the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (IFB) had previously also provided masks for free.
CST Dhaka has partnered with the IFB and the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF).
Morseda Chowdhury, director of the Health, Nutrition and Population Program (HNPP) at Brac, said: "Our main target is to create community resilience so that people can understand by themselves what they have to do."