by Dorothee ter Kulve, voorzitter bestuur Friendship Nederland
and Betteke de Gaai Fortman, directeur Friendship Nederland.

Beste vrienden en partners van Friendship,

Wij hopen dat het jullie en jullie dierbaren goed gaat.
Uiteraard heeft het COVID-19 virus ook gevolgen voor ons werk in Bangladesh.

Op 25 maart 2020, in Bangladesh zijn er 25 bevestigde gevallen en twee officieel geregistreerde sterfgevallen. Zo is het bij ons ook begonnen. In een land met 160 miljoen mensen die allemaal dicht op elkaar wonen vormt de verspreiding van het COVID-19 virus een enorme bedreiging.

Als we zien hoe onze gezondheidszorg en infrastructuur nu op de proef worden gesteld, met de vrees dat er niet genoeg ziekenhuisbedden of ademhalingsapparaten zullen zijn, willen we ons niet eens voorstellen wat er in Bangladesh zal gebeuren. Daarnaast is er ook nog de zorg voor de Rohingya-kampen waar opsluiting op een kleine oppervlakte, al ver voor de COVID-19 crisis, het gemeenschappelijke lot is van bijna een miljoen mensen.

In onderstaande mail geeft Runa Khan een update over de maatregelen die Friendship Bangladesh heeft genomen om de crisis het hoofd te bieden. Zie ook de brief die zij aan haar medewerkers heeft gestuurd en de acties van Friendship International en Friendship Bangladesh.

De maatregelen in Bangladesh vallen onder drie rubrieken, waarvan de eerste twee vorige week al zijn geïmplementeerd en de derde in  voorbereiding is: 1) Het beschermen van de gezondheid van onze teams en hun dierbaren en het voorkomen dat wij bijdragen aan de verspreiding van de epidemie; 2) Het waarborgen van de continuïteit van onze activiteiten waarbij de nodige aanpassingen worden doorgevoerd om de verspreiding van het virus zoveel mogelijk tegen te gaan; 3) het actief ingrijpen via ons netwerk om het bewustzijn van het gevaar te vergroten en de benodigde gedragsveranderingen te bewerkstelligen.

De tijdige en serieuze manier waarop Friendship Bangladesh de COVID-19 dreiging aanpakt zal, naar wij hopen, veel ellende in de gesteunde gebieden voorkomen. Friendship Nederland werkt hard om Friendship Bangladesh hierin te ondersteunen. Wij hebben daarbij jullie steun en partnership nodig.

Wij zullen jullie op de hoogte houden van alle nieuwe ontwikkelingen omtrent COVID-19 binnen Bangladesh en de Friendship organisatie.

Voor nu: zorg goed voor jezelf en voor elkaar.

Hartelijke groet namens Friendship Nederland,

Dorothee ter Kulve, voorzitter bestuur Friendship Nederland
Betteke de Gaay Fortman, directeur Friendship Nederland


From: Runa Khan
Sent: samedi 21 mars 2020 11:27
To: Marc Elvinger (…); William Lebedel (…); Esmeralda de Rethy (…); Dorothee Ter Kulve (…); Kenneth Hay (…)   
Subject: COVID-19: message to partners from Friendship

Dear Friendship Chairs,

With a history of working for the most climate impacted people over the last 18 years, we are no strangers to emergency. Our values in dealing with crises have always been about dignity, solidarity and action.

This is a challenging time for the whole world, with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic capturing our minds globally. I would like to share with you the measures Friendship has taken within the organization and in carrying out its work in Bangladesh. The Friendship International offices are also following very restrictive protocols.  As a first step we have focused on our main responsibilities:

Our communities and services.

Friendship has 37 offices all over the country that are providing essential healthcare and legal aid services, alongside other services, to the remotest people. We cannot close these facilities as there are many people who depend on these every day. We have taken additional pre-caution keeping minimum staff members and maintaining WHO protocols for this current context.

Our team established contact with IEDCR (the government institution coordinating Bangladesh’s response to COVID-19), in the beginning of this month, before the first cases were announced and reached an understanding of coordination and response in case of any emergency in Friendship’s working areas.

We have not stopped the basic work of our field activities, but we have curtailed all group-based sessions in line with the policy of social isolation.

For the communities that we work with, who are away from all mainstream awareness and programs, we are having only very small working groups when and only if needed, limiting our access to them and having much less interaction with them. We hope we will be soon able to spread Covid-19 related awareness programs amongst them extensively. We are however, doing basic awareness already to all we are in contact, be they community or patients.

Our Staff.

Our staff is our front line, our strength and our first responsibility. We care for them and we need to take care of each of them.

We are introducing essential hygiene practices and protective measures to all our staff through awareness, communication, gears (aprons, gloves, masks, protection glasses etc) and facility installations.

We have put a halt to all incoming international visitors and have limited domestic project visits till the end of March for now. These measures are of course extendable.

We have curtailed the staff use of public transport – and are introducing alternative transport services for those coming to the office.

Staff attendance has been put on a rotational basis – with most staff working from home and only essential staff in the office, that also by rotation. We have introduced point person and hotline consisting members from our Health team for immediate assistance for our staff members.  Additionally, staff whose job nature allows them to work online are encouraged to work from home. Staff over 60 years of age are encouraged to work from home and not to come to the office, unless there is an emergency.

We are very strictly following The WHO protocols we are applying in all our offices across the country. These have been given to all our offices and our Regional Coordinators in each of our 37 offices and stations are in charge of ensuring that these messages reach all our staff. 

We are committed to our community and our colleagues and to putting their safety above everything else. We are also exploring collaborations that aid in building the best possible preparedness for the people.

We are now working on Step 2 – those measures we can take, with our limited resources, for our communities and our patients in our health and project areas deeply to make them understand the importance of social isolation and responsibility. They must do everything to not contract the disease and equally important is the responsibility to NOT be a carrier and infect those who are less fortunate than them in age or health.

We shall get back to you with further details on this next step. Please feel free to share with us any advice or any inputs you or our doctors may have for us.

Seeing this amazing uncontrollable scale of the spread of this disease, is like being caught in a natural disaster at point ZERO. Having all the power of the modern world, we are still so powerless! The coronavirus sees no national borders or nationalities – this crisis demonstrates clearly how important it is to work together internationally and in solidarity, to be able to deal with global issues such as climate change or the coronavirus. 

Thank you for your continuous support and for your trust. Wishing for a more equitable world and a world of Global Solidarity.

And above all today – May you and your loved ones all be safe.

With Kind Regards

Runa Khan
Founder & Executive Director 
FRIENDSHIP BANGLADESH