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Caritas digs deep to support Covid-19 victims in Bangladesh

A leading World Bank economist predicts pandemic might push another 50 million Bangladeshis into poverty

Caritas digs deep to support Covid-19 victims in Bangladesh

Caritas Bangladesh has assisted over 226,000 people with cash and non-cash aid worth more than $4.65 million. (Photo: Caritas Rajshahi)  

Caritas Bangladesh, the Catholic Church’s social service agency, is supporting and rehabilitating thousands of poor and low-income people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The agency's aid programs resumed in January following a break for Christmas and New Year holidays.

Caritas Rajshahi, covering northern Bangladesh, has a target to assist about 2,685 people affected by the pandemic. Each person is receiving 15,000 taka (US$187) in three phases to help them start income-generating schemes like small businesses.  

On Jan. 4 and 7, Caritas Rajshahi distributed cash handouts of 5,000 taka to 508 people in Rajshahi city in the north.

“We hope these poor people can do something like [start a] small business for a livelihood as they have lost jobs and income,” said Sukleash George Costa, Caritas Rajshahi regional director.

Costa said that Caritas has been selecting and supporting extremely poor and marginalized communities by conducting awareness-building programs, installing billboards and distributing leaflets in urban slums. The agency has also set up dozens of hand-washing points, repaired many toilets, improved drainage systems and constructed bathing spaces for poor people, he said.

“Poor people dropped from the priority list of state support programs as big business communities are preferred. Only a handful of NGOs like Caritas have continued to assist the poor people,” Costa added.

Mohammad Rofique, a father of four and a rickshaw puller from Sirajganj, recently received 5,000 taka from Caritas. He faced a hard time during the Covid-19 shutdown and lost all his savings within a couple of months.

The World Bank estimates that about one quarter of more than 160 million Bangladeshis live below the poverty line or earn less than $2 a day. A leading economist at the agency predicted that Covid-19 might push another 50 million into poverty.

According to Caritas data, its eight regional offices have supported over 226,000 people with cash and non-cash aid packages worth over US$4.65 million in 44 of Bangladesh's 64 districts.

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