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Bangladeshi group sends cards, baskets to COVID-19 patients

DHAKA, Bangladesh — When her father tested positive for COVID-19, Sumona Khanom struggled to get a bed for him at an already overwhelmed Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The family struggled, too, with a lack of money to buy food.

She was exhausted. But then, solace came in the form of a fruit basket from the Bidyanondo Foundation.

There were mangoes, litchis, oranges, apples, lemons and other food. And there was a get-well card for her father that read, “We are here to stand by you. This (gift) is a token of love. Our heart goes to you!”

The basket was presented by volunteers working for the foundation, established in 2013 and known for its food assistance programs for street children and the poor. The group — its name means “learn for fun” — has stepped in to build awareness of COVID-19 among families of virus’ victims and the community.

Its efforts have been inspired by news reports of neglect of victims, or hostility toward them.

One family abandoned an elderly woman in a forest near their home when they suspected she was infected. In another incident, a father died being locked in his room when he returned from work with fever. The family did not take him to a hospital. Other families have refused to take bodies for burial or cremation.

The incidents have prompted Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to express her regret in a speech in Parliament.

Foundation officials said families should understand how important it is to support those battling COVID-19 when they need it the most.

“Those news reports are very shocking. We cannot believe this can happen in a society where relatives usually throng a hospital when someone becomes ill. But this pandemic is teaching us many new things and showing its teeth,” said Salman Khan Yeasin, a foundation manager.

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