by Raeed Abd-Allah Chowdhury

The Coronavirus has ground economies to a halt and has put immense strain healthcare systems, especially in underdeveloped countries. A shortage in staff, supplies and berths for patients is a factor even in the most developed of countries, which begs the question – how are the rural communities in countries like Bangladesh handling it?

Friendship’s Covid Warrior program seeks to address the problem by training people to spread awareness, provide medical assistance and other forms for aid to help combat the virus and flatten the curve. 30 youths from Shayamnagar in Shatkhira have been selected out of over 300 applicants as the first batch of trainees. A further 17 people completed training in the succeeding batches, and  20 local police officers have signed on for training in the 4th batch.

The Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), the highest-ranking government official in the subdistrict, Lt Col (Retd) A.N.M Abu Jar Gifari inaugurated the initiative to train the volunteers in collaboration with Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar. Dr. Mozahedul Hoque, Director of the hospital, Dr. Fayshal Alam, Dr. Muktadir Tamim and Dr. Kulsum from Friendship Hospital conducted the practical and theoretical part of the training program. Nilima Rani, a young female trainee from Burigoalini said, “nobody’s coming to the front line to help Covid-19 affected people. In many cases, doctors are themselves panicking and afraid to help. In these circumstances, we need more health workers including service providers. I saw that shortage and I wanted to help.”

The classes and sessions are conducted in the Friendship Hospital Shyamnagar premises, where every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the trainees, instructors and staff. All classrooms and grounds are regularly disinfected, and the students are given personal protective equipment (PPE) both for their classes and their subsequent aid assistance when they are out in the field. College student Monir Hossain added, “It is not possible for only doctors to fight Covid-19. To raise awareness about spread prevention, identify patients, and collect samples they need more manpower from the community and that’s why I am here.”

Gifari said that these young volunteers will help the community and physicians and that he will continue the process to train more volunteers. All the trainees will receive certificates upon completion of their training, acknowledging their civic sense and courage.