“They had to choose between paying rent or eating.” Lucille Brobbey takes a look at how one fundraiser is helping to make a difference in Bangladesh.

Across the UK, people have created fundraisers in support of the NHS, homeless charities and the elderly.

At present, there is a heavy focus on the impact covid-19 is having on people across the UK.

However, it is also important to understand the financial effects the virus is having on workers in poorer countries.

Support worker Shiblu Miah, 28, created a JustGiving page to help raise £2000 for less fortunate families in Sylhet, Bangladesh.

Many here are unable to work due to lock-down restrictions.

Money raised will help fund the creation of food packages for families living in the city located in the northeastern region of Bangladesh.

Mr Miah conducted research on food prices in Sylhet and was surprised to find that with five pounds, he can buy five kilograms of rice, one litre of oil and one kilogram of salt and lentils or grains.

The food package will feed a family of up to six people for approximately four days.

He said: “That is a lot of food supplies for only five pounds! I know it is only food for four days, but it will make some sort of difference to their situation.

“My Dad liaised with his tenants who agreed to help collect the food from the shops at a cheaper price and assist in the distribution of the food packages. In return, they would also receive food.”

What inspired Shiblu Miah to create the JustGiving page?

Mr Miah said: “My dad told me his tenants in Bangladesh asked for a rent-payment holiday because they are unable to work due to [the] lock-down, which meant they had to choose between paying rent or eating. My Dad agreed to a rent payment holiday.

“However, many families do not get the luxury of having a rent-payment holiday.

“As a result, I decided to create a JustGiving page to target families who cannot afford to buy food.”

Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate, but its consequences do

According to data published by the World Bank in 2018, the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in Bangladesh is $1750 (USD).

That means the average earnings for one person is around $5.20 per day – to shop, pay rent and feed their families.

In Bangladesh, rickshaw driving is a crucial source of income for people from less fortunate families, with many women from lower-class backgrounds working as domestic servants or garment workers.

Currently, employers of domestic servants are reluctant to allow employees to work in their homes over fears of contracting the virus.

Moreover, many garment workers are unable to work due to shortages in raw commodities imported from China, as well as the decrease in demand for clothing orders from retailers in Europe.

Mr Miah said: “If they are no longer receiving their income and the police are physically beating them up for going outside, how can they possibly support their family and eat? It’s really upsetting.

“I chose to raise money for the Sylhet area because it is more accessible for me to provide food with minimal costs.

“If I did it in a different city, it would cost more because I don’t have any family or friends in other places to help transport the food aid to families.”

Bangladesh government subsidiaries are not enough

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), increased allocation has been made to the Open Market Sale (OMS) program in Bangladesh to enable the purchase of rice at a third of the original market price.

However, it has been reported by Prothom Alo – a major newspaper in Bangladesh – that citizens, including MPs, are stealing and selling the rice allocated as relief for the poor in the black market.

This has led to the suspension and potential removal of some MPs from office.

Mr Miah said: “It’s upsetting because the people creating the fundraisers wouldn’t need to do so if government officials weren’t stealing the food-aid because there would be enough.”

Fundraising and social media

So far, Mr Miah has raised over £500 in just three weeks. He attributes this success to sharing his page on WhatsApp and getting family and friends to share it on various social media platforms.

He said: “I wish I was there to distribute the food packages myself so I could see the smile on their faces when they receive them because that in itself will suffice.

“It is hard to raise money for people in Bangladesh because I feel that people are more willing to give to the NHS, for example, as opposed to third world countries that need it more.

“But I understand every country has its own problems and people tend to relate to issues that they find are closest to them.”

Advice for fundraisers

“Just do it,” Shiblu tells me. “I think people have reservations about creating a fundraiser as they are worried about not reaching their target or raising any money at all. I had the same reservations.

“But one day I just got up and created it on my phone. If you have a good cause, then people will donate.

“Even if you have just £10, that is £10 more than what you started off with. So every little counts, as a well-known supermarket says.”

Click here to donate to Shiblu’s fundraiser.

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