“Barnabas Fund relief is saving our lives,” said Mr Lolit Malo, a Bangladeshi fisherman. Lolit’s relatives rejected him when he and his wife became Christians two years ago. Now they and their daughters (aged nine and seven) live beside the church, in the yard of someone else’s house. When Covid lockdown came last year, fish could not be transported to the markets and cities to sell, so Lolit lost his income. The family were destitute. The children stopped laughing and playing, and were just crying for food. When the Barnabas food parcel was delivered to them, they had not eaten for two days.
But now worse is coming. Covid cases are soaring in Bangladesh this month, especially near the Indian border, as the highly infectious Delta variant rampages through the population. This third wave is far worse than the first two were in Bangladesh, and the daily Covid death toll is the highest since the pandemic began. In some places, 60% of Covid tests are coming back positive.
Social distancing is very hard to achieve in this poor and populous nation, where it tends to be seen as a European concept – an impractical luxury which cannot be applied in Bangladesh.
To make matters worse, millions of people are on the move, as city workers return by bus and boat to the villages where their families live. For this week is the great annual Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha when relatives gather to celebrate together.
The government has announced that a new lockdown, the most stringent so far, will start as soon as the festival is over. All offices, garment factories and other industrial units will be closed. Lockdowns that prevent people from earning an income are feared more than the virus itself. After the second Covid wave in April, the streets were filled with beggars in May and June.
Before the last lockdown, the government gave grants of around £4.50 ($6; €5) to selected poor families to help them survive, but this is only enough for one week’s food for a family.
Help feed Bangladeshi believers
“One hand Covid, other hand lockdown, people become very vulnerable, daily living become very tough,” was the succinct message from one of Barnabas Fund’s project partners on Tuesday. He appealed for help to provide three weeks of food for new Christian believers in the Indian border areas. As converts they are extra vulnerable. God willing and with your help, we will also feed the courageous local Bangladeshi church-planters who minister amongst them.
A family food parcel, lasting three weeks, comprising rice, lentils, flour, cooking oil, sugar (an important source of calories), and a bottle of hand-wash costs just £15 ($20; €17).
Please give now.