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Bangladesh © Action contre la Faim Bangladesh

Testimony

A day of frontline staff

“I will not stop fighting”

When the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Cox’s Bazar, the government imposed several restrictions to curtail the spread of the virus. All of a sudden, streets and building halls emptied, markets and restaurants closed and offices, once hives of industry, turned silent as staff started working from home. However, not every worker had the chance to stay indoors and protect himself and his loved ones from a deadly disease that does not discriminate and about which we still have much to learn. The coronavirus pandemic, sweeping across the globe, has led to seismic changes in the everyday lives of millions of people in Bangladesh. It ruined everything we had.

 

I am a soldier in an army of dedicated humanitarian workers

 

We fight the virus and deliver services to the community during these difficult times.I wake up early in the morning to prepare what I am going to do during the day, sanitize my motorcycle and share my morning tea with my family. I spend my day with the other five community facilitators doing activities like Cash for Work (CFW), Unconditional Cash Grant (UCG), as well as coordinating with public representatives and dignitaries of the area. We deal with hundreds of different people each day in various locations. We do not know who is sick and who is not, but we always make sure to keep safe distance, sanitized hands, clean equipment, and a beautiful smile.

I use my motorcycle to travel between areas. I talk to people guiding and supporting them through the Cash for Work activites or the unconditional cash grants. These activites help community members to receive their own income in form of direct payments, enabling them to feed their families. Some people use the money to buy food items, others use it for health and medication, while many people use it to support their children to succeed at school and get education. But what I believe is that this money brings happiness to families who are living in difficult situations and whose lives have been turned upside down.

Everyone has the right to be treated equally and to receive the same support regardless of age, residence or social situation.

I never expected or suspected that anything like this would ever happen. It is hard, and everyone is tense, but thankfully we are a team that takes care of each other so we can be at our best when we assist our community. What we want are simple things, such as random discussion with colleagues while drinking our morning coffees, smiles from people we help while delivering services, afternoon tea with friends in the local market, and a family dinner after a busy day.

Due to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic our working days are getting much longer. Yet, we continue to deliver services because we care about our programs and people who drasticly depend on humanitarian assistance. Everyone is going the extra mile, which is very heart-warming. It makes your fatigue diminish when you see everyone carrying the weight, trying to help and fighting the pandemic all at once.

Bangladesh © Action contre la Faim Bangladesh

Bangladesh

© Action contre la Faim Bangladesh

Bangladesh © Action contre la Faim Bangladesh

Bangladesh

© Action contre la Faim Bangladesh

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Going Back Home

 

As I am the only one who goes out to work, I take off all my work gear and shoes and leave it outside the house once at home. Then, before I even come close to my family, I take a shower. All of my work clothes are put in a bag and dealt with separately. Sometimes I come home very late but keep my interactions with my family at a bare minimum.

During these unprecedentent times of COVID-19 my professional life has taken over the personal one. It has completely changed in the context of movement restrictions and my fear has taken over. However, I can see the hope not because I want to see it, but mainly because of what is happening around me. Moreover, it gives me strength for my work. Hope is what makes me start my day with a smile, knowing that I am helping people to have a better day during this difficult time.

The first thing I will do after this ends is to give a big hug to my family, my team and all the people that I care about. My fight with COVID-19 is not the only one: I also fight hunger, poverty, inequality, discrimination, global warming, and I want everyone to have a better life. And I myself will keep on fighting.


* Abeda Sultana Liza is Action Against Hunger Supervisor in the Food For Peace Program in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The program is funded by USAID and implemented by a consortium of Action Against Hunger, Helen Keller International, and Shusilan.

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