Ever since its initial detection in China in late 2019, COVID-19 has brought the world to a screeching halt in roughly four months. It’s crippling effect has touched on every aspect of people’s lives – health, economy, food, mental state and much more.
Aside from the health crisis, the looming socio-economic crisis has been a cause of worry for Bangladesh and UNDP has been actively working with the government on mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.
Even the sustainable youth-led startups and social enterprises that had developed through Youth CO:LAB, the common platform for young entrepreneurs co-founded by UNDP and Citi Foundation that has been working in Bangladesh since 2018, had repurposed their operations to help Bangladesh fight the crisis.
Here are six-such Youth CO:LAB supported initiatives:
The social enterprise propped up by the Youth Co:Lab platform, Moner Bondhu is a platform to provide care for mental health and well-being service with a dynamic and skilled team of counselors and experts from Bangladesh.
During the ongoing lockdown, Moner Bondhu is currently providing free 24/7 tele-counseling and video-counseling to help people handle the mental stress caused by COVID-19, in partnership with UNDP Bangladesh.
According to Tawhida Shiropa, Founder and CEO of Moner Bondhu, “Mental health and psychosocial support to stay positive and hopeful is now a global need due to the COVID crisis.”
“So, in Bangladesh, we need to work together and ensure that all sorts of support are available, not only food or emergency medical response. Only then we will be able to truly overcome this challenge,” she added.
Anyone can seek free counseling by calling the hotline number: +8801776632344 or by contacting their Facebook page. They also host Facebook Live events and live TV shows with doctors and social media influencers on COVID-related mental health issues.
The Youth CO:LAB platform supports a diversity of projects. One such initiative, the GARBAGEMAN, has been, before the COVID crisis, working to construct an efficient, smooth and affordable waste management system by recycling and reusing neglected organic and inorganic garbage.
At the same time, it was using the revenue generated from recycling and reusing garbage, to improve working environment and socioeconomic position of the cleaners and waste collectors, overlooked by the traditional system, by inspiring communities and collaborating with agencies.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure the safety of essential public health workers such as waste collectors during the pandemic, the GARBAGEMAN program has provided them with personal protective equipment (PPE), safety information and food. The service has reached 230 waste collectors in Uttara and Dakshinkhan and is poised to roll out support in Gulshan, Banani, Mohakhali and Tejgaon.
BD Assistant is active in Rangpur district (North Bengal) as a Peer to Peer (P2P) service marketplace for daily maintenance services such as appliance repair, renovations, handyman services etc. for households and offices. But when they saw that in COVID-19 crisis people need more support such as delivery of daily groceries and medicine, the enterprise started assisting people quarantined at home with a new service line delivering farm fresh groceries collected from farmers, as well as medicine right to their doorsteps.
The Youth CO:LAB supported initiative is also supporting farmers in the northern regions, who were faced with the dilemma of seeing their produces go to waste since the transportation network was disrupted by COVID-19. Now, their produce is making way to roughly 3000+ families availing BD assistant’s home service. Supported initiative had been active in North Bengal.
PeaceMaker Studio, an initiative that has been working to create awareness and spread information before the COVID-19 crisis. During the crisis it has now repurposed its mission to also battling misinformation, which according to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is “ïnfodemic.”
In such context, PeaceMaker Studio is carrying out the important work of raising awareness through multimedia in Bangladesh. They have produced and published visual content on preventing fake news and awareness building, safety measure from COVID19 promoted through individual interviews and proper hand washing techniques. To date, their content have reached more than 60,000 people.
iFarmer is an impact tech startup that has developed an innovative online platform for any Bangladeshi to easily sponsor in farming and livestock.
When the crisis hit, iFarmer as an immediate support, provided food aid for 2 weeks to 300 vulnerable farming households, along with basic health and hygiene information on COVID-19 and plans to extend support to 500 households in the next week.
The initiative has also started a Business to Business (B2B) vegetables supply to the e-commerce platforms based in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, so that the farmer families can sell their produce and not remain reliant on relief. They are collecting vegetables directly from farmers to ensure better prices and markets.
“It took iFarmer.asia 5 days to design a supply chain mechanism to procure vegetables from the farmers,” said Fahad Ifaz, the CEO of iFarmer.
“We worked for only a couple of days for PriyoShop.com to adopt fresh veggies and groceries into their platform for customers and a LinkedIn message and couple of calls for Truck Lagbe to get on board, who gave amazingly quick and cost-efficient support to bring farm produce from the north of the country to Dhaka,” he added.
Shuttle, another startup supported by UNDP Youth CO:LAB, provides safe, comfortable and affordable transportation for women in Dhaka.
Following the crisis, they have expanded their operations to provide safe and secured transport support to people who provide essential services and need to attend office during the lockdown situation in Dhaka and Chattogram. These people were in crisis with the local transport systems taken off the grid to stop spread of the virus.
All the vehicles are especially sanitized for the passengers, carry sanitization kits and first aid as necessary. Every day this enterprise is serving more than 200 people and ensuring their safe passage to and from their workplace.
“There are people, who are having to commute during lockdown because of the nature of their jobs. We wanted to help this people reach their destinations safely,” pointed out Reyasat Chowdhury, Co-founder & CEO of Shuttle.
“Also, from the business point of view, this measure helped us to generate revenue during the crisis and support the network of drivers and vehicle owners impacted by the crisis.”