News How the coronavirus pandemic affects inequality in Bangladesh

Countries all over the world are struggling to manage this global crisis and Bangladesh is no exception. But since Bangladesh is already struggling to provide a basic health care, education and justice infrastructure for all people in one of the most densely populated countries of the world, the coronavirus pandemie will have an especially serious impact on the most vulnerable people.

Bangladesh has shown capacity to respond to crisis, as it has, when confronted with climate and other disasters. However, there is an urgent need for a more rights respecting and responsive leadership at all levels to include and care for those who are most at risk of being left behind: children and youth with disabilities.

Marufa is 15 years old and has mild Cerebral Palsy. She studies in grade 10. Her parents are divorced. Over a year ago her mother re-married. Marufa’s stepfather does not accept Marufa. Every day he humiliates her and calls her names. She is not allowed to sleep in the house, only outside on the verandah. Because she went to school before the coronavirus crisis, Marufa could avoid having to listen to her stepfather’s humiliations and name calling. But now, due to the required social isolation is Marufa, just like everyone else, at home. Her stepfather lost his job and now takes out his anger on Marufa. As her husband is violent, Marufa’s mother is afraid to take her daughter’s side. Food is given last to Marufa and now with so little to eat this means she does not get any. She was very upset and phoned staff of the Niketan Foundation to ask for help.

Goods and services must be made available in sufficient quality and quality without discrimination and affordable to all. This is however often not the case as Marufa’s story shows. Within the cultural context of Bangladesh persons with disabilities – especially when female and poor – tend to be left behind and un-catered for, also in times without a crisis. Pandemic responses thus need to especially reach out to persons with disabilities – young and old.

Niketan Foundation supports children and youth with complex disabilities in Bangladesh. During the coronavirus pandemic instructional videos using smart phones have been made to provide distance support for continued education and physical therapy, while also food-parcels are sent to poor families with children with disabilities.

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