As the world has come to a sudden stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those living day-to-day to meet their necessities, the most vulnerable, have been hit the hardest. The fear of getting infected, and practicing social distancing, has caused many small businesses and daily labours work to shut down. Most SHOUHARDO III participants, who earn a living by working as day labours and other irregular means of work, have no alternative sources of income. Leaving those without savings unable to sustain; in comparison to others who have even a little savings to get them through these unprecedented times. “My husband has a small shop in the Upazila Bazar. He maintains the family with the earnings from this shop. During the lockdown, his business came to a standstill. We had no savings either. For some days we managed with the money he had as business capital, but it ran out soon. We couldn’t have survived for long.” Said Tulona Begum (38) from Dakkin Attpara village of Jalsuka union under Ajmiriganj Upazila in Habiganj district. In April, SHOUHARDO III allocated a total of 227,700,000 Taka (USD 2,694,675) to provide 12,000 Taka (USD 142) per family to more than 18,000 extreme poor families each to help them overcome the harsh reality of this pandemic. The money was sent to the participants through one of the most popular mobile money transfer platforms in Bangladesh, bKash. Till date, 16486 households have been reached. “This cash support was the life-saver for my family. I purchased food for my family. I have bought some ducks and chickens and foods for livestock as well. Hopefully, I will be able to earn again after floodwater recedes,” said Surijon Khatun from Baje Telkupi village of Fazlupur union under Fulchari Upazila in Gibandha district. Aside from the immediate financial help, this activity has also provided families the opportunity to become familiar with and engage in modern technological advancements in financial services. In line with the Government of Bangladesh’s vision of a ‘digital Bangladesh’, for many SHOUHARDO’s approach to provide assistance through bKash was the reason to engage in mobile banking. Surijon Khatun, from Baje Telkupi village of Fazlupur union under Fulchari Upazila in Gibandha district, is one such participant, who just had her first ever experience with mobile banking and she was utterly surprised by its convenience. She said, “I received a message on my phone, I walked to the nearest bKash agent, I put my secret PIN, and collected my money – It was that easy!” This effort from SHOUHARDO III managed to provide the poorest of the poor with some comfort during this extremely difficult time. Sajeda from Baje Telkupi village of Fazlupur union under Fulchari Upazila in Gibandha shared, “If your clothes were torn, you can use it after sewing. What is your alternative when you are hungry? We just tried to survive by eating once or twice a day. Receiving cash support was a means of our foods.” Everyone hopes that this difficult time will pass, and things will be back to normal soon. SHOUHARDO III is planning to continue supporting the poor and extreme poor households of its working areas until it does. Written by Sairana Ahsan, Reporting and Documentation Manager of SHOUHARDO III, CARE Bangladesh, and Iffat Khan, Knowledge Management Coordinator of SHOUHARDO III, CARE Bangladesh.
September 17, 2020