With decades of experience and expertise in health, microfinance and social development services, Sajida Foundation has made a quick response to the crisis created in the wake of Covid-19.
Over the last month, the organisation has rapidly diverted its resources and operations to tackle the issue from multiple frontiers, reads a recent press release issued by the organisation.
On the health front, one of its secondary-care hospitals has been dedicated to the treatment and isolation of Covid-19 patients, while the other has continued general medical services focusing particularly on maternal and child care.
The foundation also extended mental health services for adults and children through online platforms as well as specialised care services for the elderly.
At the same time, Sajida's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) programme has been actively involved in installing handwashing facilities in high-risk zones while distributing essential hygiene material such as soaps and sanitizers for the most vulnerable.
In terms of economic support, Sajida's microfinance programme has undertaken substantive emergency preventive and protective protocols to safeguard its members against health and livelihood shocks.
To ensure availability and accessibility of vital Covid-19 related information particularly for the vast majority of marginalised communities, Sajida's microfinance field officers have maintained continuous contact with members over the phone.
At the same time, nearly 2,000 field forces have reached 0.4 million microfinance members (with daily calls to around 20,000 members) with life-saving information regarding the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.
Mass awareness-raising efforts have included leaflet distribution as well as household visits while maintaining social distancing measures. Sajida staff, along with over 500 volunteers, have distributed leaflets among 2,59,253 people while frontline workers visited door to door to build community awareness which is crucial to curtailing spreading of the disease.
To ensure the means for frequent handwashing in densely populated, high-risk zones, Sajida also set up 470 handwashing containers made of low-cost, locally available material, which are now accessible to about 0.7 million people.
Sajida has been reaching out with food and hygiene packages containing a week's supply of daily groceries (eg rice, lentils, oil, salt, potatoes, soap, etc) to support needy microfinance members as well as other ultra-poor families in its working areas.
Till date, 38,414 packs have been distributed through a hundred branch offices of the foundation while working closely with government officials to ensure due diligence to beneficiary selection methods and social distancing and hygiene regulations.
Based on an assessment of the needs of its microfinance members during this crisis, Sajida has extended support in the form of cash and kind, where appropriate.
In the case of cash support, the organisation plans to rely on digital financial services to minimise human interaction at the branch level.
Sajida's agriculture unit has also actively engaged in creating market linkages for small scale farmers who have been unable to reach wholesale buyers on time or get competitive prices due to restrictions in public transport and mobility.
In the interest of its members, Sajida is also negotiating with its financing partners for a sizeable portion of funds allocated recently by the Bangladesh Bank as part of a Tk30,000 crore Revolving Refinance scheme.
In collaboration with specialised NGOs, Sajida's microfinance programme is also reaching out with small grants to 2,200 families of socially excluded minorities including sex workers, Bede (river nomads) and Hijra (Indian transgender) communities, who are now struggling to earn a minimal income for their daily meals.
In addition to maintaining regular disinfection of branch offices and supplying staff with hygiene material, Sajida has sanctioned a special hygiene allowance for staff living in rented dormitories without their families.
Sajida's Human Resource department maintains regular contact with staff through phone calls to boost their morale during the pandemic, and senior managers are particularly attentive to the health and wellbeing of their teams.
For those who are sick, the organisation is continuously reaching out through telemedicine hotlines and providing physical and mental health counselling where applicable.
At a time of such unprecedented global crisis, while the journey will not be easy, Sajida remains true to its values and committed to its resolution of building back better.