Health Video story

‘We are the Bede, this is our identity’

The leadership of Deepali and Sardar Jashim helped many families protect themselves against Covid-19.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, while most people in Bangladesh were rushing to get vaccinated, not everyone was aware of how to protect themselves, get tested or even get the vaccine. For some members of the country’s nomadic ethnic group known as the Bede, the lack of access to information and health services was not the only obstacle they faced. As a marginalized minority that usually stays in temporary settlements, they don’t have permanent addresses, which makes it impossible for them to obtain official identification cards and other documents needed to access basic services.

For the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), helping marginalized groups has been essential in preventing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting the most vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly or those like the Bede with little access to health care.

Through the rotation of almost 4,000 volunteers, BDRCS was able to access areas where these small communities are temporarily settled across the Kishoreganj district to increase their awareness about the pandemic and distribute relief to the most vulnerable. The National Society was also able to arrange an agreement with the government to provide special permission for people in this area who don’t have official IDs to get tests or vaccines.

Fear and distrust of Covid-19 vaccines

Despite the efforts of BDRCS volunteers through information campaigns, many people from the Bede still feared getting vaccinated. “Many feared they would die, and some feared contracting and suffering from the disease,” said Deepali, a member of the Bede community.

In order to protect them from contracting the virus, BDRCS volunteers recognized that Deepali and her husband Sardar were trusted members within the community. Volunteers worked together with them and other members of these groups to build trust and raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated.

“I went house-to-house telling everyone to get the vaccine”, said Deepali, describing how difficult it was to convince people that vaccines were safe and effective at preventing the coronavirus. “When everyone was denying getting vaccinated, my husband and I took the vaccine first. I told them we are also scared for our lives, and therefore we would get it first.”

This action led many others to go to a vaccination centre and line up to take the vaccine. “We are 60 people here, and now 40 of us are already vaccinated,” she said with a smile on her face. “Many of us are now protected from illness. After receiving the vaccine, our children and elderly should also be safe and at peace.”

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This story was produced and drafted by Hossain Mohammad Prodip
– a talented and dynamic storyteller from Bangladesh Red Crescent.

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