The Lancet has recently reported the decision by the Bangladesh Government to charge patients between 200 taka (£1.80) and 500 taka (£4.50) for Covid-19 tests. The reasoning given was to ‘avoid unnecessary tests’.

This decision has understandably affected the poorest and most vulnerable most of all.

Since imposing a charge, rates of testing have fallen to just 0.06 tests per 1000 people during August, with most tests occurring in the capital, Dhaka. In a country of 168 million people, just 15,000 tests are being performed per day. This compares to testing in the UK of around 250,000 per day – a rate of 3.6 per 1000 people.

Bangladesh has now officially recorded around 275,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 3,600 deaths but, with the testing rates so low, these figures can only scratch the surface of the actual position.

The country is also suffering from a lack of trust in the testing system with many scam testers operating now that there is a charge. In mid-July a hospital owner was arrested for issuing thousands of fake test results. Tests are also not reliable with many results not being provided for weeks and some not at all.

The Lancet reports that graveyards are reporting many times the official death rates and with the monsoon and dengue seasons having now arrived, the situation is only going to get worse. It is the poorest once again who are suffering, with Covid-19 believed to be rife in slums and other crowded urban areas.

Even if testing were increased 20 fold and were to be free again, the problem for Bangladesh moves to treatment. Bangladesh has one of the lowest investment in healthcare globally, with just 0.69% of GDP spent. Much of healthcare remains private which once again benefits the rich but not the vast majority of the population.

When the economic effects of the pandemic are added to the pot, it is clear that Bangladesh is in a very perilous position and the true cost to such a poor nation will be difficult to monitor and go largely unrecorded whilst the world battles this deadly disease.

How is the Orphan Trust helping? Well although it is a big problem, we are doing what we can by supporting projects such as orphanages or schools for slum children run by Jaago. We have also distributed food to children living on the streets and aim to provide more food distributions with your help.

To donate, please click here.

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There are over 600,000 children living on the streets in Bangladesh. Around 75% of them are in Dhaka. COVID 19 has left them with very few choices. Some children have returned home to avoid the virus, whilst some don’t have a home to return to. Even at home, the children aren’t completely safe, as some still have to wander around the streets, gathering supplies to help their family make enough money to survive. This is why orphanages are needed. They shelter children from exploitation by gangs, violence, and abuse. The older children can help the younger children learn, and everyone can help keep up each other’s morale. Some people do not believe in orphanages. They believe children belong in a safe loving home. But what is that is not an option? Some children do not live in a safe home, they do not have parents that want them or can afford them or keep them safe. Street children don’t have a proper childhood. At home, they were working or looking after siblings, and out on the streets they have to fight for their survival, but in an orphanage, children can be children. They can have a proper childhood where they don’t have too many responsibilities or pressure. They can play and have fun and be around other children just like them. They are protected. This is why we need orphanages.

In the UK, we are privileged enough to have replaced orphanages with foster homes. Unfortunately, in developing countries such as Bangladesh, isn’t it better to be alive, with food and shelter in an orphanage than risking their lives on the streets?

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  • sofenachoudhury

As I try to filter out the noise to focus my mind on over a million textile workers in Bangladesh who were sent home from work, furloughed without pay, or have lost their jobs, I find it difficult. My mind is swimming, video footage posted on Facebook, the terrible blast in Beirut this week. Lives destroyed, homes and possessions lost. In the UK, there is fear of a second peak of Covid-19 looming. Unemployment figures are on the rise. With economic gloom on the horizon, I think to myself, what does this mean for the pension crisis?

‘And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?’

Right, focus, Bangladesh. Headlines read “Apocalyptic; Bangladesh Garment Workers Face Ruin’’, ‘Primark and Matalan among retailers allegedly cancelling £2.4bn orders in ‘’catastrophic’’ move for Bangladesh’. Finally, ‘Primark to cover wages of factory works after cancelling all orders’, some good news?!

‘You often say, ‘’I would give, but only to the deserving”.

The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.

They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.’

Back to Bangladesh. So, what of those who were not so fortunate as to find themselves in the sweatshops of our disposable readymade clothing industry? … ‘Starvation defies lockdown’, I read. The Bangladesh Bureau of statistics reports that ‘there are 10 million people in Bangladesh who are dependent on their daily income’. In other words living hand to mouth as the saying goes. Driven by hunger and starvation they are forced to defy lockdown and the punitive hands of the law, in search for their daily bread. The inevitable consequences play out in my head. Increase in poverty, equals increase in violence against women and children, resulting in an increase of children seeking refuge on the streets. The difficulties faced by street children worsens. How terrible. This is too hard to digest. I have no words. In search of light relief, I allow my thoughts to drift once more:

‘All you have shall some day be given;

Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors. ‘

Extracts from ‘The Prophet’, Kahlil Gibran.

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