A week-long campaign to raise awareness on Covid-19 among the rural population of two northern divisions- Rajshahi and Rangpur - was launched Saturday, following hygiene rules and taking vaccines.
A total of eighty students from different departments of Rajshahi University are participating in the awareness campaign under a voluntary club, North Bengal COVID-19 Youth Forum of Rajshahi University with the support of Bangladesh Betar and Unicef.
The campaign will be conducted in different villages under sixteen districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions - a quarter of the total- aiming to disseminate messages of social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding crowds, washing hands for 20 seconds, registering and receiving vaccines, etc.
A virtual meeting was held Friday, where the RU Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ) department's Professor Pradip Kumar Panday gave instructions on how to conduct these awareness activities while UNICEF Communication for Development Officer Monjur Ahmed, and MCJ department's associate professor Naziat Hossain Chowdhury, assistant professor Mamun Abdul Kaioum, among others, spoke.
One of the notable phenomena of the pandemic this time is the amount of information available to people, that they can avail if they choose to do so. Coupled with the lockdown to boot, most people have in fact bookmarked pages like Johns Hopkins University's Covid-19 dashboard, the cool graphical presentations on the pandemic by the team at Our World in Data, or the WHO/CDC's Coronavirus resource.
However in Bangladesh at least, a combination of factors has restricted this to the highly-developed urban centres. This is as much due to a glaring digital divide in terms of access to the web and all its wonders between rural and urban areas, that manifested most troublingly when students who had to go back to their village homes once schools closed, were often unable, or failed to keep up due to poor network coverage, with initiatives by some institutions to hold Zoom classes. The lack of equal access meant these had to be ditched eventually.
On the other hand, for almost the entire first wave, and bulk of the second, the outbreak in Bangladesh was largely confined to urban areas. In particular, it was Dhaka-centric. It was only during the latter half of the 2nd wave, around late May/early June, that Dhaka's proportion of the total cases started to decline, and by not much at all. Unlike previous strains, which would arrive in the country through its main airport located in the capital and then spread from there.
But the second wave was driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India, with which Bangladesh shares an enormous, and porous border. Entry points were often identified in one of the many frontier districts bordering India. The proportion of cases in the rural hinterland thus began to rise. And it was then that it became imperative to spread the knowledge on Covid-19 into these areas.
This RU project, with support from Bangladesh Betar, the state-controlled radio station, and Unicef, aims to fulfill that objective.