Lack of coronavirus testing

written by Ellyn Schellenberg

Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world with 121,000 people per square mile (2.5 m2) and yet testing of coronavirus across Bangladesh remains minimal. There is only one testing facility in Dhaka that is allowed to test for coronavirus and only 351 people have been tested so far in the city of nine million. There is a lot of uncertainty around how to remain safe in such a dense city where large extended families often share small apartments and limited space — and where many people depend on day-to-day manual labour jobs in order to eat. “It’s not an option for people to stay home,” Stuart*, an OM leader, explains. “And the implications for people are a bit mind-boggling.”

Several workers and their family members have been sick recently but were unable to get tested, or the results of the tests taken were questionable. “One team member was tested, but we don’t really know if the results are accurate,” John*, the country leader, shared.

“Another team member’s mother is ill, and they took her to the hospital but were almost turned away as staff were hesitant to interact with people who had the [coronavirus] symptoms.” The family was finally able to find a doctor at a private clinic who was willing to check the mother and prescribe her medicine, but the extra expense to cover this medical care is a heavy burden. Now the family is just waiting to see if the medicine works, or if they need to pay more to seek further treatment options.

One couple on the team tried to evacuate because of the wife’s preexisting autoimmune disease, but their flight was cancelled. They are still waiting to leave. Too many people are leaving the country, and it’s reported that all flights out are being cancelled. The emergency evacuation for this couple, and possibly others too, will be a substantial expense for the ministry to cover.

OM is stepping in to help raise funds for emergency care of their workers and the communities and people they serve. Please join us in helping to provide access to medical treatments where it’s available, and to cover emergency evacuations when needed.

*name changed

Cultural images from the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Garrett N

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