COVID-19: ICRC-BDRCS assisting vulnerable communities in CHT

Photo: ICRC and BDRCS

Hill Voice, 30 May 2020, Chittagong Hill Tracts: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in collaboration with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), assisted 85 communities as well as people living in urban areas in the three Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) districts affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Over 30,000 people from 6,000 families received one-off assistance in a form of unconditional cash grant of BDT 4,500/family to improve their food consumption between 19 to 24 May 2020, supported by the BDRCS and ICRC.

In a media paper signed by Rayhan Sultana Toma, ICRC Bangladesh Public Relations Officer dated 30 May 2020 Saturday, it is mentioned that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated, many people, especially in hard to reach CHT communities, are facing acute food shortages due to lack of work. The communities in dire need require assistance to cope with the ever-changing situation. Explaining the objective of this cash support program, Mr. M. A. Halim, Community Development Director, BDRCS, says “through local BDRCS units we are reaching families whose members tested positive to COVID-19, households depending on daily wages, families with no access to income, women-headed households, persons with disabilities etc. to meet their basic food and non-food needs.”

Such assistance to the families highly affected by the current COVID-19 emergency will have an improved impact on their dietary diversity and help restore the food consumption in quantity and quality, while covering their other basic needs.

Elaborating the continued support in CHT, Ms. Laura Diskin, Field Protection Delegate of ICRC Bangladesh, says “we have been supporting both Bangali and ethnic minority communities since 2014 in partnership with the BDRCS. In times of COVID-19 pandemic, our diverse humanitarian support like cash assistance, in-kind food distribution, support to district prison authorities and preventive messaging on COVID-19 is catered to help the communities as well as complement government efforts to cope with the adapted situation.”

Besides this support, Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari district prisons have received hygiene items to tackle the spread of coronavirus among the prison population, including both detainees and prison staff alike; while BDRCS volunteers continue to assist the district detention authority to implement the Infection Prevention and Control measures. In addition, food parcels were distributed to 3,000 families in the three CHT districts covering seven days of need, implemented by the BDRCS with the financial support from ICRC.

Preventive audio messaging on COVID-19 continues to be sent to more than 200 community leaders across the CHT region while such messages in the form of leaflets have further been shared during the cash distribution. Meanwhile, a two-way communication system, through hotline and feedback mail, is being implemented in coordination with the BDRCS; collecting feedback, complaints and/or suggestions directly from the people. In addition, the ICRC continues to conduct information sessions on International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, as well as Use of Force and firearms to Law Enforcement Agencies in Bangladesh, including CHT.

The ICRC, in partnership with the BDRCS, has been implementing community-based livelihood support programs since 2014 while helping the communities access safe drinking water and sanitation and hygiene programs since 2016 in an integrated way.