When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Babor Ali Mir had the same fears as everyone else, yet he also had a platform to do something about it in his community. A Deputy Secretary of the Bangladesh government, Babor works as a Zone-3 Executive Officer with Dhaka South City Corporation, which means he has access to networks of stakeholders who can work together to inform city dwellers about the risks of COVID-19 transmission. This feeling of duty became all the more personal to Babor after he contracted the virus and recovered.
Knowing that millions of people using Dhaka’s fresh food markets would be at increased risk, Babor decided that the Bangladesh government needed help from different stakeholders, such as from the private sector, to advance sufficient awareness and prevention. He soon learned that GAIN’s emergency KFMW programme and its complementary projects would be supporting wet market safety by involving administrators, vendors, and consumers in risk education and infrastructure improvements. Eager to play a role in protecting workers and community members, he has been active with EatSafe and KFMW since attending an August 2020 meeting at the Islambagh City Corporation Wet Market.
Babor especially likes the KFMW programme’s collaborative data collection towards effective action; where wet market associations work with local market associations to establish COVID-19 response units. Through the programme, GAIN collected bimonthly data on both consumers’ and vendors’ attitudes and behaviours in the informal market as it relates to COVID-19. Based on these survey results, the programme was able to direct resources toward targeted wet market emergency support - distributing masks to vendors, installing public announcement systems, setting up clear boundaries and protective fencing around the market to help with social distancing, and even hiring a public health engineering team to create user-friendly (and theft-proof) hand-washing systems.
Never missing a meeting, Babor has since been assigned as a member of the EatSafe Technical Working Group - with many of his recommendations leading to direct improvements. He suggested, for instance, that food producers should be looped into the new food security measures, and that wet market vendors should be encouraged and assisted to get vaccinated, as well as wear hand gloves while cutting fish and meat. He often donates the use of Zone-3 office facilities to GAIN project teams so that groups of vendors and consumers can safely attend meetings, trainings, and workshops.
Babar works tirelessly to bring people together to accomplish project activities and cooperates with the market committee to ‘get the job done’ as soon as possible. KFMW thrives with the help of passionate and conscientious public servants like Babar Ali Mir, who has in turn expressed his gratitude to the project for transforming wet market safety, preserving the livelihoods of market vendors, and saving myriad lives in the process.