Learning from the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh

Categories: Care, Category, and Community Engagement.

The world is facing a global crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. The palliative care project team from Compassionate Narayanganj in Bangladesh share what they have learned from their experience supporting patients during the lockdown.

The virus has spread to every district of Bangladesh. It has taken a terrible turn. After Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Narayanganj was declared a “Red Zone” by the Bangladesh government.

The number of cases as well as the number of deaths in this district is increasing day by day. On 6 April 2020, a lockdown was declared in the Narayanganj district, which is still ongoing. Initially the lockdown was strictly observed but now it has been relaxed, with people resuming their daily activities to some extent.

During lockdown, providing home care was quite impossible for us. However, we did not stop our services. We utilized social media such as Facebook and technology like WhatsApp effectively at that time. From 1 July 2020, we resumed our normal activities and started home care in our local area, in compliance with hygiene protocols.

Nothing is absolutely good or bad. It is not fair to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has only harmed us; it has taught us a lot. Honestly, we have learned a lot from this, and have been able to realise many things that we would not have realised without this experience.

One good lesson we have learned is on how to serve the patients through telephone consultations even if the home service stops, and how to keep the service running depending on the situation. We’ve also learned to do online sessions.

Since we don’t have the opportunity to do sensitisation meetings in this situation, we have learned how to campaign online using social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

Our registered volunteers couldn’t visit our Centre due to lockdown, but we are keeping our registered volunteers connected with us through online methods. We have understood the importance of social media in this situation.

Palliative Care Assistant, Arifa Akter, said: “In the midst of the lockdown period, the fact that I have been able to serve my patients is a great achievement for me. Attending online meetings and classes was a whole new experience for me. I’ve learned properly how to protect myself and my family members during this pandemic.”

We have learned very well how to take care of the patients and to continue official works wearing protective equipment and keep ourselves safe. We’re getting used to it. This habit will come in handy in the future. If we can maintain this habit all the time, we will not be easily attacked by any viral or bacterial diseases in the future. We have also learned that office work could be done in a short range from home.

At this time we have easily understood how important it is to protect oneself, how much self-care is needed. We realized how it is possible to maintain a good relationship with everyone like family members or neighbours from home, with the help of technology. The biggest thing is now we know better how to protect ourselves and our family and it’ll help us in future.

Palliative Care Assistant, Mousumi Akter, said: “I have learned how to provide social and psychological support to the patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. I think I will be able to deal with any such pandemic in future. In order to continue the patient’s physiotherapy service, I have contacted the patient’s caregivers and tried to persuade them. By doing this I’ve got a lot of peace of mind. Thank-you to the Compassionate Narayanganj team for supporting me.”

We have realized how difficult the reality of life is! We have learned to be economical really. COVID-19 pandemic has made us understand that food and water are more important for survival than leading a luxurious life. We have understood what self-satisfaction is after helping someone.

Arifa Anjum, Staff Nurse from the Compassionate Narayanganj project, said: “After a long stay at home during Lockdown, I’ve realized how difficult it is for a bedridden patient to stay at home all the time! I’ve realized how much mental distress the bedridden patient may have and how to take care of their mental health. I will be able to handle the responsibilities of my workplace and will be able to continue patient care in any subsequent situation. Thanks to the whole Compassionate Narayanganj team for cooperating with me during this period.”

Palliative Care Assistant, Mehedul Hasan, said: “It has actually been a great experience! During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been able to spend a lot of time with my loved ones which has never been possible before. I have learned to rethink life. I have learned the usefulness of washing hands properly, the importance of boosting my immune system to protect myself from COVID-19.”

“Compassionate Narayanganj” is a pilot project funded by UK Aid Direct. It is collaboration between Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) and the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) to ensure the availability of palliative care services in the community.