20 April 2020: As of now, more than 20 percent corona infected cases in Bangladesh fall with the age bracket of 21-30 years. It is already confirmed globally that coronavirus can sicken or kill young people. While risks are genuine, that didn’t deter some indomitable youth in Bangladesh for turning the tide by steering collective actions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Since the first coronavirus case was reported on 8th March in Bangladesh, a strong workforce of youth volunteers, supported by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) have sprung into actions in various parts of the country. Mentionably, these volunteer force were developed since 2017 under MJF’s Excluded Peoples’ Right (EPR), supported by UKAid.
By following mandatory health precautions, these young volunteers begun reclaiming their youth power in the face of this pandemic by mobilising communities. By their relentless and dedicated work, more than 500 young volunteers in 21 upazilas of eight districts and six city corporation areas instantly became a huge source of energy and commitment to the community movement against coronavirus.
Eight partner NGOS of MJF, namely: Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center, LEDARS, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, VAFWSD, BGS, ESDO, JSKS, BASA, Ghashful, IED, FIVDB and GUK have galvanized the community by distributing nearly 10,000 soaps, sanitizers and masks among 12000 marginalized individuals. So far, 5328 households have received food support which included rice, lentil, potatoes and oil. They also distributed 40 pieces of disinfecting kits. Using some 136 Kgs bleaching powder, youth volunteers also disinfected various parts of villages and towns. In discharging their duties, these youths tried to cover people from all walks of the society ranging from adivasi, dalit, transgender to other types of marginalized people. For social distancing they drew circle with chalk and paint in various market places. They also set up check posts to control the movement of the community people for ensuring Stay at Home.
MJF-supported youth volunteers’ anti-covid services were carried out with active collaboration of
various government institutions, such as offices of City Corporation, Civil Surgeon Office, Department of Youth Development, Women Affairs, Deputy Commissioner Office, UNO Office, Upazila Parishad, Union Parishad, District Police, Ward Counselor Office etc. The officials were highly appreciative of young volunteers’ cordial support and impressive performance in selecting affected households, distribution of relief etc.
The project officer of IED-led project under Youth and Social Cohesion Theme has been appointed as the District Coordinator of Corona Emergency Response Team formed by Police Department and 14 Civil Society Organizations in Sherpur District. In Thakurgaon district, a total of 127 youth were drafted in as members of COVID Response Committees in five upazila.
While these youth volunteers have been continuing their awareness-raising and public health and hygine-related activities, they are also making concerted efforts in changing their own behavior, trying to become role model and at the same time influencing their peers to play their due societal role in the community.
On various social media platforms, these energetic youths are engaged in fighting infodemic, debunking various myths around coronavirus and building consensus by spreading genuine and authoritative messages on various aspects of pandemic situation. By actively participating in social media dialogue, they are also challenging stigma and championing mental and physical wellbeing of the people at large.
In coming days, these enthusiastic youth volunteers will be involved in MJF’s planned livelihood programmes. This will open up opportunities for them to get capacitated on various social accountability tools to conduct social audit for ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity of various livelihood-related programmes of the government.