USAID’s SHOUHARDO III, a Development Food Security Activity implemented by CARE Bangladesh, swings into action as the coronavirus pandemic hits Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The program has been supporting the poorest populations in eight districts of northern Bangladesh since 2015. Through delivery of sustainable interventions aimed at increasing the resilience capacities of 384,000 participants, SHOUHARDO III has gained significant results in achieving food and income security, maternal and child health and nutrition, women’s and youth empowerment and linkage creation to the public and private sector for pro-poor services. Within five years of implementation, the program has been through a number of emergencies, including the influx of refugees in Bangladesh in 2017, and the annual flooding that affects the chars and haors context of SHOUHARDO III areas. The coronavirus pandemic, however, is a unique emergency that needs a different approach to tackle. The World Health Organization (WHO) made the declaration a month ago in March 11, 2020 and since then, the current global count of total infected cases surpassed 1.3 million, whereas, in Bangladesh, the government’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) reported 482 coronavirus-positive cases as of 12th April, with 30 deaths. In this regard, CARE requested and got the approval from USAID to reallocate its existing budget for FY20 with the amount of 2.86 million USD (243 million BDT). “This amount will help us mount a response that would meet the immediate needs of our participants, and more importantly, the post-crisis scenario to help them recover”, said Ishrat Shabnam, Acting Chief of Party of the program. The overall response will include supporting health facilities, strengthening community mobilization among people in the villages, providing cash transfer for agricultural and nutrition support to households, as well as disseminating risk awareness related messages, including mitigation of gender based violence. Actions carried out by the program since the program started include:
- SHOUHARDO III has been collaborating with its local implementing partners and government counterparts in combating the spread of disease among the vulnerable populations.
- Field activities have since been suspended since mid-March, however, ensuring physical distance and following health protocols, frontline staff managed to distribute posters with relevant pandemic information in all the 947 villages the program covers.
- As an added alternative in creating awareness in the communities, SHOUHARDO III through its existing partnership with Radio Sarabela (local radio with hub in Gaibandha district) created a public service announcement on how to prevent the virus, reaching 34,000 people initially, primarily adolescents and youths.
- The program also works with Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) in disseminating life-saving information in times of crisis through voice messaging over the phone, already spreading to at least 13,000 participants directly.
- The program’s mobile hotline (013-0690-7327) serves as a communication channel to its stakeholders in circulating information and receiving feedback during this crisis
- The program’s Facebook page tackling ending Violence Against Women by mobilizing mothers-in-law to support women’s empowerment serves as a platform to disseminate messages on preventing gender-based violence where cases apparently peak during the lockdown period
- A video for Bangladesh audience was published on CARE Bangladesh’s Youtube channel on how to prevent being infected by the coronavirus by following simple habits