Kapaeeng Foundation, a member of the National Engagement Strategy (NES) Bangladesh, has urged the Bangladeshi Government to do an inclusive relief distribution in order to support thousands of low-income indigenous families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than four million indigenous people of Chittagong Hill Tracts and plain lands in Bangladesh are mostly poor and suffering from severe food crisis because of the countrywide shutdown since 25 March due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. In Bangladesh, the coronavirus detected case was first officially declared on 8th March 2020.
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), April-June is the lean period for the IPs who are dependent on shifting cultivation and agriculture. The people of the village made a living by selling agricultural products in the local village market. These villagers have fallen in trouble in selling agricultural goods due to the closure of the market following the corona pandemic. They are forced to spend lazy days at home. Due to the country-wide lockdown, the situation is getting worse, and a limited number of local transports like boats are able to carry staple food packages to remote areas of the CHT.
Being the remote areas, IPs are largely remained out of the coverage of relief and other humanitarian help provided by the government organizations and the NGOs. Their vulnerability is getting worse when thousands of indigenous garments workers have lost their jobs and returned home crossing hundreds of kilometres on foot. This has not only impacted locals’ daily lives but also increased the possibility of getting infected from coronavirus.
To address the emergency situation, the Prime Minister has announced a stimulus package of Tk. 5 billion for farmers to boost agricultural production in the backdrop of Covid-19. The Prime Minister said, “Small and medium-scale farmers in rural areas producing grains, fruits, flowers, fisheries, poultry farms, dairy farms will be eligible for loans from the fund, at a four per cent interest.” However, questions remain on the transparent and accountable distribution of announced stimulation packages to the landless and small-scale farmers who are really involved in producing agricultural products as mentioned.
Amid shutdown, when the country is struggling with Covid-19 pandemic, the cases of human rights violations are on the increase. Violence against women, minorities and indigenous people are in increasing trend reported by the media during the period of countrywide ongoing lockdown. In a bid to grab indigenous peoples’ land, a group of people affiliated with the influential have burnt the locals’ rubber garden in Bandarban reported in the national dailies.
Kapaeeng Foundation, member of NES Bangladesh in association with its partners Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum and Jatiya Adivasi Parishad made a press statement on 12 April 2020, called to extend public and private humanitarian assistance for the marginalized indigenous peoples during the ongoing lockdown in Corona.
The statement further said that at least in 13 districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions, more than 36 small ethnic communities likewise Santals, Urao, Munda, Mahato (Bedia / Kurmi), Malo, Mahale, Mushar, Kara, Koda, Kol, Vil, Bhuimali, Bagdi, Turi, Ganju, Gorait, Teli, Koch, Kanda, Rajoar, Lohar, Shabor, Ho living in this geographic locations. Most of them are landless and agricultural labourers. They buy daily rice, pulses, oil and salt with their daily wage money, but nowadays, they have become unemployed in the lock-down situation in the country.
Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation, said that they had taken a humanitarian aid initiative through a Facebook page to collect fund for the measles affected IPs amidst the current COVID-19 outbreak living in remote Sajek area in CHT.
"With your help, we have already successfully distributed the humanitarian gifts to Sajek peoples. Our deepest gratitude and love to all those who have come forward to help us," said Pallab.