Freedom fighter-doctor professor Quazi Quamruzzaman said that the prevailing situation in the world as well as in Bangladesh is like that of a war against the contagious life-killing coronavirus.
From his long experiences of mitigating disasters at home and abroad, he said, the situation demands the declaration of an emergency and disaster zones.
This is the time to enforce special power for taking additional measures to contain more losses of lives and devastation as stipulated in the country’s Disaster Management Act 2012, he added.
‘The act has the provisions for declaring emergency in case of any pandemic and also give specific guidelines to manage the disaster through integrated and comprehensive plans by involving the army, bureaucrats, civil society, NGOs and others,’ said Quazi Quamruzzaman, adding that the act had already been adopted at the Asian inter-ministerial conference for disaster risk reduction in 2016.
Quamruzzaman, also the chairperson of Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management, said that coronavirus mitigation is not just a health issue as the pandemic has already left a severe impact on the livelihood of the people, economic and agricultural activities, education and others.
But from the very beginning, he said, the responsible government officials failed to realise the multitude and magnitude of impact of the problem.
‘Since they failed to realise its overall effect on the region, they wasted time for preparedness to deal it as any other disaster even though the country has a well-formulated act. We have successfully tackled cyclones, floods and various other natural disasters quite effectively,’ Quamruzzaman said.
Before the situation goes beyond control, Quamruzzaman said, guidelines of the act must be implemented by announcing disaster zones and declaring emergency after which all mitigation and aid-related activities would be supervised centrally by the disaster management council, headed by the prime minister.
‘The army, bureaucrats, police, health workers and others are all taking risks of being contaminated but it should be done in a coordinated way, the way we operated during the war of independence in 1971,’ he said.
Declaration of the emergency would also help the government to utilise treatment facilities of hospitals, clinics or treatment centres run by any autonomous, or private organisation and even NGOs and all physicians, nurses, and health workers serving in those facilities should be obliged to provide necessary services on demand, said Quamruzzaman, the founder of Community Trust, Dhaka Community Hospital and a 500-bed hospital in Pabna.
‘Japan has already declared an emergency and the European countries were also enforcing special power without formal proclamation of an emergency,’ he said.
‘They could achieve the confidence of the people that by remaining confined to their homes they would get food, treatment and other basic services. They also imposed rationing according to one’s purchase capacity so that people having money could not hoard essentials,’ he said.
This example should be followed in Bangladesh where everybody would get treatment, food and other essentials until the disaster was over, Quamruzzaman said.
Management of the post-disaster situation, he said, would be even more challenging as the economy would seriously be affected and many people would become jobless for the slump in trade.
‘We appreciate the stimulus package of Tk 71,000 crore announced by the prime minister recently with the long-term vision. But, we also request that the farmers, workers private organisations, non-formal workers were given aid so that they did not suffer much,’ Quamruzzaman said.
An optimist, professor Quazi Quamruzzaman said that the country, which had been facing natural disasters for years, would be able to overcome the ongoing coronavirus situation if the policies and pledges are executed efficiently and transparently.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview