Save the Children has made an urgent call for international assistance to help Bangladesh meet a surge in demand for ventilator machines to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak, and to help avert a humanitarian disaster in the country.
The call comes at a time when a total of 164 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in the country, including 17 deaths, raising fears that the number would go up in the coming days.
In a statement, Save the Children Australia yesterday said most of the country's intensive care beds and ventilators are installed at hospitals in major urban centres including the capital Dhaka, making it difficult for remote communities to access those.
There are reportedly 1,769 ventilators in Bangladesh at this moment or in the pipeline, which means an average of one ventilator available for every 93,273 persons.
The international rights organisation also expressed concerns for the estimated 3.3 million people who live in the southwestern district of Cox's Bazar, one million of whom are Rohingya refugees living in cramped conditions with limited access to hygiene and health facilities.
"The acute scarcity of ventilators in the district means lives will be lost when Covid-19 starts to spread more widely in the community," it said.
Save the Children is calling for a single global plan to help confront one of the biggest threats to global health and security in modern times, the statement said.
"This plan must be underpinned by debt relief, increased financing for public health, liquidity and safety nets for the most vulnerable, and effective coordination.
Dr Shamim Jahan, deputy country director for Save the Children in Bangladesh, said at present it is difficult for Bangladesh to meet the expected surge in demand for ventilators to help respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
"We are in this together; no single country can confront COVID-19 alone, even the richest and most powerful among us. It is therefore essential that world leaders -- in particular the G20 countries -- commit to a coordinated global plan under-pinned by debt relief," she said.
"We also urge the Bangladesh government to engage the public and private sectors urgently to secure ventilators for Covid-19 patients."
UNDP ROLLS OUT $1.5M FOOD SUPPORT
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Bangladesh government, is rolling out US$1.5 million emergency food support for 50,000 extremely urban poor families, to help alleviate the hardships and potential impacts of coronavirus.
This initiative was taken under UNDP's Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) -- a joint project being implemented by the Local Government Division of Bangladesh, DFID and UNDP with an aim to reduce urban poverty, said a statement yesterday.
Judith Herbertson, DFID Bangladesh Country Representative, said the livelihoods of a large number of urban poor have been severely disrupted due to the shutdown and the loss of income. The project is responding to the situation in a number of ways including providing hand-washing facilities and cash grants.
Additionally, the DFID has provided UK£3 million to UNDP to reach at least 2.16 million people in urban slums across 20 city corporations and municipalities, with awareness-raising information and hand-washing facilities.
"What we are trying to do under this initiative, is to make things easier for the people to follow the public order -- which is to stay home and prevent the virus from spreading and therefore this partnership will deliver food at the doorsteps of the poor households," said Sudipto Mukerjee, resident representative of UNDP Bangladesh.
He said urban low-income communities in Bangladesh are exposed to high risk of infections due to overcrowded living conditions with inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and the assistance would of great help for them.