Volunteerism and Civic Engagement during COVID-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh

Published: Feb 9, 2024
Civic Engagement Volunteerism Covid-19 Pandemic Community Help
Mohammad Sajedur Rahman
Nurul Huda Sakib

This paper investigates the patterns and impact of volunteerism during the COVID-19 period. Bangladesh’s economy toiled hard during the COVID-19 pandemic due to its nature as an informal economy. The nation, which is on the trajectory of becoming a middle-income country, is faced with the dual challenge of imposing strict lockdowns on economic operations to stop the spread of the virus and moving the economic wheel for economic growth at the same time. In the fight against the pandemic, people are seen to extend help for others' causes. As economic activities shrank, the people living below the poverty line were inappropriately affected, and the government had limited capacity to extend help. The paper, through content analysis, has found that volunteer activities at the community level play a significant role, along with government initiatives to extend health support for the pandemic and provide food for the poor in emergency situations. This research identified three types of volunteer activism during the pandemic time in Bangladesh: spontaneous individual volunteerism, activism of volunteer organisations, and community collaboration with NGOs and corporate organizations. Observations indicated that all three types of community activism were considerably functioning as volunteerism in the fight against COVID-19 by reaching the most vulnerable individuals with basic necessities and providing basic health services for the pandemic. In the process of volunteerism, social media plays a significant role in communication among the volunteers and receivers. However, there is another side to the story. It has been observed that several fraud events under the guise of volunteer activism deceived people due to inadequate monitoring of government administration.

Article Details
  • Section
  • Research Articles
Download data is not yet available.
Adler, R., & Goggin, J. (2005). What Do We Mean By “Civic Engagement”? Journal of Transformative Education, 3(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/1541344605276792
Ali, M., & Bhuiyan, M. (2020, August 19). Around 1.7m youths may lose jobs in 2020 for pandemic. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/around-17m-youths-may-lose-jobs-2020-pandemic-121351
Ali, T., Hassan, M., & Hossain, N. (2021). The moral and political economy of the pandemic in Bangladesh: Weak states and strong societies during Covid-19. World Development, 137, 105216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105216
Asian Development Bank. (2021, December 27). Bangladesh on the Road to Recovery from COVID-19. Asian Development Bank. https://www.adb.org/news/photo-essays/bangladesh-road-recovery-covid-19
Al Gharaibeh, F., Mahmud, A., & Islam, M. R. (2022). Community initiatives against Covid-19 in the United Arab Emirates. Community Development Journal, 57(3), 404-410. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsab045
Al Jazeera. (2020, July 16). Bangladesh arrests hospital owner over fake coronavirus results. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/7/16/bangladesh-arrests-hospital-owner-over-fake-coronavirus-results
Al Jazeera. (2021, August 5). Bangladesh street kitchens battle to keep free food on the menu. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2021/8/5/bangladesh-street-kitchens-free-food-covid-pandemic-poverty
Bakhtiar, O. (2020, April 10). Organizations helping in COVID-19 relief efforts with crowd funding. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/next-step/news/organizations-helping-covid-19-relief-efforts-crowd-funding-1891660
Barua, S. K. (2020, March 27). Coronavirus: 20 villages of ethnic minorities in Bandarban impose community isolation. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/coronavirus-deadly-new-threat/news/coronavirus-20-villages-ethnic-minorities-bandarban-impose-community-isolation-1886755
BRAC. (2020). Fight against novel coronavirus. Brac.net. https://www.brac.net/latest-news/item/1271-fight-against-novel-coronavirus
BRAC. (2021). BRAC, partner NGOs to mobilise communities in 38 districts under high covid risk, 58 million people to reap the benefit. Brac.net. https://www.brac.net/latest-news/item/1306-brac-partner-ngos-to-mobilise-communities-in-38-districts-under-high-covid-risk-58-million-people-to-reap-the-benefit
Banerjee, A. (2020). COVID-19: Shakib Al Hasan Foundation Looking After 2000 Poor Families In Bangladesh Amid Coronavirus Pandemic. India.com Sports Desk. https://www.india.com/sports/covid-19-shakib-al-hasan-foundation-looking-after-2000-poor-families-in-bangladesh-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-3984705/
Cnaan, R. A., Handy, F., & Wadsworth, M. (1996). Defining Who is a Volunteer: Conceptual and Empirical Considerations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 25(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764096253006
Corpuz, J.C. G (2021). COVID-19 and the rise of social activism in Southeast Asia: a public health concern, Journal of Public Health, Volume 43, Issue 2, June 2021, Pages e364–e365, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab063
Chowdhury, I.A. (2020). Youth volunteers bust COVID-19 myths and combat misinformation. UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/en/stories/youth-volunteers-bust-covid-19-myths-and-combat-misinformation
Daily Janakantha. (2020, December 13). স্বপ্ন দেখি বিশ্বকে মানবতার রঙে সাজানোর. Daily Janakantha. https://www.dailyjanakantha.com/education/news/542538?fbclid=IwAR22y83jtZn8upzZmCTUS1-sk6PF8G8bfnPAOPSQEVLz1_zLzO5fDUriz40
Foisal Nafiu, R. (2021, July 14). Footsteps distributes oxygen cylinder to Covid patients. Dhaka Tribune. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/252483/footsteps-distributes-oxygen-cylinder-to-covid
Gilmore, Ndejjo, Tchetchia, et al. (2020) Community engagement for COVID-19 prevention and control: a rapid evidence synthesis. BMJ Glob Health. 2020 Oct;5(10): e003188. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2020-003188. PMID: 33051285; PMCID: PMC7554411.
Hasan, J. M. A. R. (2020, September 13). Migrants Returning: Bangladesh sees a huge surge in last three weeks. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/news/migrants-returning-bangladesh-sees-huge-surge-last-three-weeks-1960917
Hasan, S. (2021, July 10). ‘Mehmankhana’ sharing Eid joy with hot meals for the less fortunate. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/bangladesh/news/mehmankhana-sharing-eid-joy-hot-meals-the-less-fortunate-2092933
Henriksen, L. S., Strømsnes, K., & Svedberg, L. (Eds). (2018). Civic Engagement in Scandinavia. Volunteering, Informal Help and Giving in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Springer.
Hossain, I. (2020, April 3). The House of Humanity in Sylhet. Dhaka Tribune. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/205775/the-house-of-humanity-in-sylhet
Himi, S.M. (2021, July 17). DRP COVID-19 Response: A campaign by Footsteps to help Bangladesh breathe. The Financial Express. https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/national/drp-covid-19-response-a-campaign-by-footsteps-to-help-bangladesh-breathe-1626506330
Jewett, R. L., Mah, S. M., Howell, N., & Larsen, M. M. (2021). Social Cohesion and Community Resilience During COVID-19 and Pandemics: A Rapid Scoping Review to Inform the United Nations Research Roadmap for COVID-19 Recovery. International Journal of Health Services, 51(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/0020731421997092
Jones, K. S. (2006, June 1). Giving and Volunteering as Distinct Forms of Civic Engagement: The Role of Community Integration and Personal Resources in Formal Helping. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 35(2), 249-266. https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764006287464
Jugantor. (2020). উপবৃত্তির টাকা দিয়ে ২০০ মানুষকে খাবার দিল অষ্টম শ্রেণির সিনথিয়া. Jugantor.
Khatun, F., Rahman, M., & Islam Khan, T. (2020, August). Growth, poverty and inequality implications of Covid-19. The Financial Express. https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/views/growth-poverty-and-inequality-implications-of-covid-19-1591547175
Kumar Panday, P., & Abdul Kaioum, M. M. (2020, July 14). Infodemic amid pandemic: A Bangladesh perspective. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/thoughts/infodemic-amid-pandemic-bangladesh-perspective-105976
Karim, N. (2020). As coronavirus bites in Bangladesh, a former sex worker helps women still on the streets. Thomson Reuters Foundation. https://news.trust.org/item/20200729124111-mwqej
Khatun, F., Rahman, M., Moazzem, K. G., & Khan, T. I. (2020, June 7). Growth, poverty and inequality implications of Covid-19. Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). https://cpd.org.bd/growth-poverty-and-inequality-implications-of-covid-19/
Lovan, W. R., Murray, M., & Shaffer, R. (2017). Governance and Community Engagement: The Australian Experience. In Participatory Governance: Planning, Conflict Mediation and Public Decision-Making in Civil Society. Taylor & Francis. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/mono/10.4324/9781315247335-16/governance-community-engagement-australian-experience-robert-lovan-michael-murray-ron-shaffer
Mahmood, M. (2020). On Bangladesh GDP in the time of coronavirus. The Financial Express. https://www.thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/reviews/on-bangladesh-gdp-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-1599314452
Mahmud, W. (2020, January 20). The Bangladesh surprise explained. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/analysis/bangladesh-surprise-explained-37887
Masud-All-Kamal, M., & Hassan, S. (2018). The link between social capital and disaster recovery: evidence from coastal communities in Bangladesh. Natural Hazards, 93, 1547-1564. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3367-z
Mirdha, R. U. & Suman, M., (2020, March 26). Factories rise to the occasion, join hands to make PPE. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/business/news/factories-rise-the-occasion-join-hands-make-ppe-1886101
Mridha, R. U. (2020, March 29). Garment factories start PPE distribution. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/business/news/garment-factories-start-ppe-distribution-1887127
Mujamdar, B.A. (2020, August 5). ‘Coronavirus Resilient Villages.’ Retrieved October 31, 2023, from https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/coronavirus-resilient-villages-1940261
Nasreen, M. (2021, March 25). Fifty years of disaster risk governance in Bangladesh. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/supplements/celebrating-50-years-bangladesh/news/fifty-years-disaster-risk-governance-bangladesh-2067109
Osmani, S. R. (2020, January 3). Coping With COVID-19: The Case of Bangladesh - BRAC Institute of Governance and Development. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development. https://bigd.bracu.ac.bd/publications/coping-with-covid-19-the-case-of-bangladesh/
Owoyemi A, Okolie EA, Omitiran K, Amaechi UA, Sodipo BO, Ajumobi O, Nnaji CE, Okedo-Alex (2021) Importance of Community-Level Interventions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 105(4):879-883. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-1533. PMID: 34370697; PMCID: PMC8592170.
Putnam, R. (2000, September 1). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Social Science Journal; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0362-3319(02)00190-8
Prothom Alo (2021, May 11). 350 families assisted on third day of 'Mobile Humanity Bazaar'. The Daily Prothom Alo.
Reza, A. (2021, August 26). Footsteps: Empowering communities for a brighter future. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/features/panorama/footsteps-empowering-communities-brighter-future-293353
Said, A., Miah, M. J., Islam, T., Anjum, I., Nahrin, A., & Swarna, R. (2020). Economic Impact of COVID-19 and Way forward for Bangladesh. https://www.brac.net/images/news/downloads/Economic-Impact_PPT_9%20June_final.pdf
Sakib, S. N. (2020). Bangladesh: Celebrities, youth resolve to fight COVID-19. Aa.com.tr. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/bangladeshcelebrities-youth-resolve-to-fight-covid-19/1779034
Sánchez-Páramo, C., Hill, R., Narayan, A., & Gerszon Mahler, D. (2021, October 7). COVID-19 leaves a legacy of rising poverty and widening inequality. World Bank Blogs. https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/covid-19-leaves-legacy-rising-poverty-and-widening-inequality
Shonchay, A. (2021, July 29). “Brahmanbaria will breathe”. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/coronavirus-chronicle/covid-19-bangladesh/brahmanbaria-will-breathe-280852
Smith, D. H., Stebbins, R. A., & Grotz, J. (2016, January 1). The Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations. Palgrave Macmillan UK eBooks. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-26317-9
Soros, G. (2018, February 17). The social media threat to society and security. The Financial Express. https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/columns/the-social-media-threat-to-society-and-security-1518798959
Sarkozi, A. (2021). Volunteers step up for vulnerable citizens during the pandemic. UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/en/stories/volunteers-step-vulnerable-citizens-during-pandemic
The Business Standard. (2020a, April 4). Mashrafe's foundation to provide medical service amid coronavirus. https://www.tbsnews.net/coronavirus-chronicle/covid-19-bangladesh/mashrafes-foundation-provide-medical-service-amid
The Business Standard. (2020b, May 12). Mushfiq's bat price crosses Tk 40 lacs on auction. https://www.tbsnews.net/sports/mushfiqs-bat-price-crosses-tk-40-lacs-auction-80374
The Business Standard. (2020c, July). Bidyanondo-CMP field hospital begins journey. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/coronavirus-chronicle/covid-19-bangladesh/bidyanondo-cmp-field-hospital-begins-journey-100684
The Business Standard. (2020d, November, 10). Covid-19 crisis has created new scopes for corruption: TIB. https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/corruption/covid-19-crisis-has-created-new-scopes-corruption-tib-156271
The Business Standard. (2022, July 19). Fake Covid reports: Dr Sabrina, 7 JKG Healthcare staff jailed for 11 years each. The Business Standard. https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/court/fake-covid-reports-dr-sabrina-7-others-jkg-jailed-11-years-each-460850
Textile Today. (2020, March 25). BGMEA working to make PPE for health professionals. Retrieved from: https://www.textiletoday.com.bd/bgmea-working-make-ppe-health-professionals/
The Daily Star. (2020a, April 16). Manikganj cop donates land to bury those who died of Covid-19. Retrieved October 31, 2023, from https://www.thedailystar.net/coronavirus-live-update-manikganj-police-donates-land-bury-those-who-died-covid-19-1893493
The Daily Star. (2020b, March 31). Navana Group preparing 100-bed hospital in Ctg for Covid-19 patients. Retrieved October 31, 2023, from https://www.thedailystar.net/city/news/navana-group-preparing-100-bed-hospital-ctg-covid-19-patients-1888174
The Financial Express. (2020, March 23). “Your order has been cancelled”: The Coronavirus impact on the RMG sector. Retrieved October 31, 2023, from https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/views/your-order-has-been-cancelled-the-coronavirus-impact-on-the-rmg-sector-1584974682
UNB. (2020). A beggar who helped others is set to receive bigger help from PM. Unb.com.bd. https://unb.com.bd/category/Bangladesh/a-beggar-who-helped-others-is-set-to-receive-bigger-help-from-pm/56039
Whittaker, J., McLennan, B., & Handmer, J. (2015). A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 13, 358-368. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.07.010
WHO. (2023). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Post COVID-19 condition. Who.int. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-post-covid-19-condition
Wilson, J. F. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 215-240. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.26.1.215
Wilson, J. F., & Musick, M. A. (1997, October 1). Who Cares? Toward an Integrated Theory of Volunteer Work. American Sociological Review, 62(5), 694-713. https://doi.org/10.2307/2657355
Wilson, K. R., Roskill, O. M., & Mahr, J. (2022). Mutual aid using digital technology: a case study of virtual community organizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Community Practice, 30(3). https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2022.2102101
Wolensky, R. P. (1979). Toward a Broader Conceptualization of Volunteerism in Disaster. Journal of Voluntary Action Research, 8(3-4). https://doi.org/10.1177/089976407900800306
WHO. (2021, October 24). Bangladesh: Community health workers at the heart of a stronger health system and the fight against COVID-19. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/bangladesh-community-health-workers-at-the-heart-of-a-stronger-health-system-and-the-fight-against-covid-19