Bangladesh: ICRC donates body bags, PPE items to ensure dignified handling of COVID-19 deceased

Proper and dignified management of the dead is an essential aspect of dealing with emergencies and humanitarian crises such as the ongoing pandemic. Not only does it preserve the dignity of the deceased and eases the pain of the grieving family, it also helps to ensure that people do not go missing due to errors in records.

Working towards this goal and to ensure the safety of those who handle the bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) donated 2,535 body bags and 73,293 items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to different agencies of first responders across Bangladesh.

The items were handed over to 16 organizations and government agencies, including the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard, Rapid Action Battalion, Sadar Hospital in Cox's Bazar, Al-Markazul Islami, Quantum Foundation, Rahmat-e-Alam Foundation, Anjuman Mufidul Islam and Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust.

Jenny Hughes, a forensic specialist with the ICRC, said, "These donations are part of a larger plan of action to support contingency planning and building the capacity of first responders because a proactive response is always better than a reactive one. We plan to continue helping these organizations with training and technical support in the future."

Talking about the challenges and stigma faced by front-line workers managing dead bodies, Ajay Pal from Quantum Foundation, which has been working relentlessly to ensure a proper burial for those succumbing to COVID-19, shared, "I stayed away from my family in the early days of the pandemic as I was helping in the burial process of COVID-19 deceased. My family struggled to understand my job out of fear and stigma but eventually came around and started supporting me."

He added that there are many stories of discrimination and even violence against frontline workers even though they are putting themselves at risk to provide critical service to others.

The ICRC continues to work with organizations and authorities across Bangladesh to raise awareness as well as reduce fear by emphasizing the critical role of all front-line and medical personnel.