Asif Saleh
Asif SalehFile Photo

The coronavirus situation will worsen further if all sectors including non-government organisations in the society do not act simultaneously, BRAC executive director Asif Saleh has said.

He earlier worked as executive director of Goldman Sachs, an international investment bank.

In an exclusive interview with Prothom Alo, Asif Saleh said, “We have to go to the rich people for funds. Voluntary organisations have to be organised. Otherwise we will not be able to reach our goal.”

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He said in such a crisis there is need for coordination. It will not work if non-government organisations just go to the field and engage the communities. There must have health centres and test facilities.

“The government has to lead. Otherwise we will not be able to get the entire benefit,” he added.

Asif Saleh said there is a risk of spreading coronavirus through public transport and so it must be controlled strictly. The Vietnamese people have done well by changing their habits.

When asked about taking urgent measures, Asif Saleh said a quick decision has to be taken about rapid kits of Gonoshasthaya Kendra.

Tolarbagh has been made free of virus by imposing partial lockdown, he pointed out saying the possible hotspots have to be brought under control by verifying information.

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Asif also said people have to be aware about wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance.

He said there is a risk of spreading coronavirus through public transport and so it must be controlled strictly. The Vietnamese people have done well by changing their habits.

“The people have to be united as the government cannot handle this alone. But the government is reluctant to include all. We are insisting on this,” Asif Saleh said.

About the imposition of lockdown, he said this was not a permanent solution and people would have to be provided with food to enforce lockdown.

“In a survey in April, we saw that even a poor man had food for three to nine days. Now the situation is very grave. We are carrying out another survey and the results will be available in June.”

The government has decided to open COVID and non-COVID departments but the mechanism to implement this is very weak, the BRAC executive director said adding the decision will not yield any good results unless it is implemented properly.

He said more funds have to be collected internally and have to be disbursed through volunteers.

About the activities of NGOs, Asif Saleh said the activities of NGOs have been shrunk in the last few years.

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“The foreign donors indicate lessening assistance. Our coronavirus fund is only 14 million dollars. We have got 9 million dollars from UK, Australia and Canada and BRAC’s fund is 2 million dollars and 3 million dollars from other sources. Earlier, the foreigners gave much more during even a minor crisis,” the BRAC official said.

About people’s sufferings in the food crisis, he Saleh said the survival will be difficult if they are not given food. Relief and employment have become urgent.

“In a survey in April, we saw that even a poor man had food for three to nine days. Now the situation is very grave. We are carrying out another survey and the results will be available in June,” Asif Saleh added.

*This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been written in report form by Rabiul Islam.