Welcome to Episode 78 of Good Will Hunters from the Development Policy Centre. Today on the show we have Diana Fernandez and Faisal Bin Seraj.
Diana is the Deputy Country Representative for the Asia Foundation in Myanmar and Faisal is the Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Bangladesh. Myanmar and Bangladesh, like all countries, have been hit by Covid-19. At this stage, the economic impacts are outweighing the health impacts, despite both countries having fragile health systems.
Diana and I discuss Myanmar’s economic dependence on China, and how this has impacted on Myanmar’s response to Covid-19 including the closure of their borders along with the emergence of Chinese NGOs. We discuss why Myanmar’s healthcare system is ranked as one of the worst in the world, and why the Ministry of Health recognises that it cannot cope with a Covid-19 outbreak. We also discuss the internet blackout occurring in Myanmar, as revealed by a private telecommunications provider, Telenor, who was ordered by the Ministry of Information in Myanmar to switch off some of their internet towers. The blackout has made the coordination of aid to parts of Myanmar difficult and speaks to broader concerns about the freedom of the media and the spread of critical information.
Faisal and I discuss why the growth-rate of Covid-19 infections in Bangladesh has been higher than other Asian countries, but also how Cox’s Bazar and the large refugee camp it houses, have managed to emerge with no confirmed cases. However, since the time of recording, two Rohingya refugees have tested positive for Covid-19 in Cox’s Bazar.
Faisal and I also discuss the low-cost test kits that have been distributed in Bangladesh and whether their reliability is a problem. Like Myanmar, there are also restrictions on internet access and media freedoms in Bangladesh, which we discuss. Lastly, we discuss the stimulus package announced by the Bangladesh government and whether it is enough to protect precious informal sector workers as well as the garment manufacturing sector, who have been hit hard by international brands cancelling their orders.
You can find out more about the Asia Foundation here: https://asiafoundation.org.
You can also find more coverage of Covid-19 impacts in Asia via the Devpolicy blog at Devpolicy.org. Recently, Diana, Faisal and other staff from the Asia Foundation wrote an article for Devpolicy on women’s safety in Asia. It’s an important read.
Other articles contributed by Asia Foundation staff on Devpolicy cover the impact of and response to COVID-19 in Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia
The GWH Team