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.
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