• Wednesday, May 27, 2020
  • Last Update : 08:54 am

Compassion is needed in the time of coronavirus

  • Published at 08:49 pm March 26th, 2020
coronavirus-volunteer-rickshaw
Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

We need to explain, educate, and be there for each other instead of dishing out blame

The vast majority of people in Bangladesh are incapable of gauging the dangers of coronavirus. 

All their actions are based out of curiosity, fear, or lack of job security. My heart bleeds for the poverty-stricken, innocent souls who are clueless about what is about to hit them. No one chooses to be born in the slums of a low-income, overpopulated country. If they could, they would also win the lottery by being born into privilege. 

But it’s not a choice, is it? Coronavirus will probably wipe away their grandparents or parents or even themselves if they survive that long. Unfortunately, a more imminent and looming threat is starvation.

Remember the day labourers 

Day labourers of Bangladesh make one or two dollars a day and buy food and medicines for their families at the end of every single day. They can’t afford to hoard food or essential supplies like the rest of us. 

What can people with agency do?

Donate to organizations that are working tirelessly to feed the hungry (eg Bidyanondo or any other organization of your choice).

Remember the trip that got cancelled due to coronavirus? Donate that money to the needy.

If you had any event (birthday, wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, sunnat-e-khatna, etc) planned and that got nixed due to coronavirus, please give that money to the destitute.

Be human and pay your domestic help for a few months before you let them go and please don’t forget to buy them a few extra soaps.

Please don’t let your privilege stink 

Let’s not mock people who are at a disadvantageous position. They are clueless and that’s why they are heading to their villages or crowding in places. 

What can people who know better do?

a) Educate your family members, extended family members, friends, relatives who live in remote areas and especially domestic help, drivers, and security guards. Initiate a conversation with a rickshaw-puller and tell them how coronavirus spreads and what to do about it.

b) Create mass awareness. If you work or know someone in media or other news outlets that can reach to millions of people then please insist on them continuously playing/publishing contents like “Meenar Ovijan” or other awareness creating content that explains the importance of breaking the chain of transmission. Celebrities can share how they are staying home, washing their hands, and following basic hygiene.

c) There might be still some who will fail to comply and can be taken care of by our police and army.

Don’t just blame the returnees

I understand that repatriates (people who significantly contribute to our GNP) are being irresponsible and not quarantining themselves. But mobs beating the heck out of them only makes it worse. Everyone, repatriate or not, has a role to play in flattening the curve.

What can the ones responsible do?

a) Let’s make anyone who comes out as coronavirus positive a hero. Appreciate them for being honest and responsible. And pray for their recovery.

b) Let’s make self-identification of a repatriate a cool thing. News outlets and media should identify individuals self-isolating and use them as shining, positive examples. 

c) Above all, stay home! Don’t go out to have tea (I don’t get the connection between Bengali fathers/uncles and tea stalls)! Don’t meet friends, relatives or anyone for that matter. Trust me, the lunch/dinner party can wait.

Health care is under pressure

Health care systems of even the most advanced and wealthy nations are struggling to combat coronavirus. Not only is our health care system massively ill-equipped to offer the essential services, but also the doctor-to-patient ratio (which is 1:6,579 according to the Financial Express) is beyond scary.  

What can we do keep doctors, nurses, and other patients safe?

a) For the love of your creator, practice being truthful to the doctors. Hiding travel history or the fact that one may have come in contact with a potential coronavirus patient is beyond irresponsible. 

b) Let’s not show up at hospitals with minor symptoms and expose doctors, nurses, and other patients to coronavirus. 

Remember: All the patients in the hospital are at high risk of dying from coronavirus.

c) Create pressure on authorities to respond to patients calling with severe symptoms. 

The governing bodies may do this in collaboration with telecommunications service provider giants like Robi and Grameenphone by using their customer care services.

Economy crashing

The economy is going to collapse and millions of day labourers might lose their jobs. This may lead to a rise in crime and general unrest in society. The objective should be to avoid long-lasting catastrophic damage to the economy.  

What can people with influence do?

a) Advocate for extreme lockdown measures immediately. According to an article published by the World Economic Forum, high-profile economists are of the opinion that governments should do “whatever it takes” approaches. 

Only then does the economy have an opportunity to bounce back sooner rather than later.

b) Do everything to push forward policies that ensure unemployment benefits, pension plans, and provide financial aid to everyone including garment workers, construction workers, rickshaw-pullers, auto rickshaw drivers, etc.   

There are a million examples that are getting us triggered. But let’s practice humanity and compassion in these trying times. 

Let’s explain, educate, and support each other in whatever way we can in this unprecedented economic and health crisis. 

Right now is the time to express solidarity more than ever.

Shara Khan, PhD, University of Alberta. 

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