‘Dial 333 for food assistance’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:36 AM, April 08, 2020

‘Dial 333 for food assistance’

The government has launched a national hotline, 333, for providing humanitarian assistance and food to the needy during the nationwide shutdown amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The service was launched on April 5.

The hotline has already received over 5,000 calls in the last two days, said Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser to the Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister's Office.

He made the comments while attending an online discussion, "E-commerce calls in the service of humanity", organised by the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) yesterday to celebrate E-commerce Day.

Earlier, the government used the short code to disseminate necessary information among people.

"After the inception of the short code, we began receiving calls from people who had no food. Immediately, the calls were transferred to the respective upazila nirbahi officers  who took immediate steps to send them relief," said Chowdhury.

Without any publicity, the short code is getting huge response while local administrations are addressing the callers' needs, he said.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Post and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar, ICT secretary NM Zeaul Alam, among others, also took part in yesterday's discussion.

"We are in a tough situation in terms of running trade and commerce as coronavirus has put a restriction on everything. E-commerce can play a vital role in this regard," said the commerce minister.

Meanwhile, the Access to Information (a2i) programme under the ICT division has identified 3.70 lakh unique callers who have queried on different hotline numbers about Covid-19 and can use the data to find out how many people are at risk, said Anir Chowdhury, at a press conference on April 2.

In the last couple of weeks, people have called either 333, 16263 or relied on the government's *3332# hotlines to know about the coronavirus and now the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is analysing the data gained, after which they will decide where test kits and other equipment are needed, said Chowdhury.

The national call center 333 has received more than four lakh calls about coronavirus, while the DGHS' 16263 received 1.70 lakh calls on the same issue. In collaboration with mobile operators, the government has also sent out bulk texts to which seven lakh people have replied, he added. 

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