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On April 24 last year, Mosharraf Hossain Sahid was in the middle of a 16-hour shift for Dubai Municipality disinfecting roads in the city’s Jumeirah district. The Covid-19 pandemic was unfolding in the UAE and the 38-year-old was on the front line of the nation’s response.
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At the same time, in a small village thousands of kilometres away in his home nation of Bangladesh, his wife was in labour with the couple’s third child.
“I knew before then that I would miss the birth of my child back home in our village of Cumilla in southern Bangladesh, but I realised that sterilisation was an important task, and my role was essential,” said Mosharraf.
“I had been on the cleaning team since March when my directors asked me to be part of the task force to protect Dubai from the global outbreak. The work was long and relentless, but I was honoured to be part of the frontline team disinfecting the city. Dubai needed me and I was committed to the job.”
On the day of the birth, as his wife went into labour, Mosharraf was praying for her throughout the day. He could not speak to her until he returned to his accommodation later that night.
“My heart was full of joy when I spoke to her and the rest of the family, who told me that my wife and daughter were healthy and doing well,” he said. “I went to sleep that night with a smile on my face knowing that I had a new baby at home and that I was in Dubai fighting the pandemic at the same time. What an honour it was.”
Mosharraf is one of hundreds of frontline volunteers and professionals who have been recognised and supported by the Frontline Heroes Office for making personal sacrifices in the nation’s battle against the pandemic.
His work before the coronavirus outbreak was in the emergency pest control department of Dubai Municipality, where he has worked since 2006. He was part of a team that responded to calls from residential areas about potentially dangerous animals.
When the pandemic broke out, he became part of the National Sterilisation Programme. To prepare for the role, he enrolled in a training workshop that covered personal protection against the virus, as well as mixing and applying disinfectant chemicals.
Each shift would begin with donning personal protective equipment, including a mask, gloves, face shield and full suit. The teams then combed each street, building and structure while the rest of the city’s residents were inside after curfew hours. They would travel in vehicles or modified bikes to spray disinfectant chemicals in narrow roads. Sometimes, they would use drones.
“It was a tough task, but I kept reminding myself that it was important work, and I owed this country for the opportunities it had given me,” said Mosharraf. “So, I kept doing my job day after day and night after night. My family were worried about me contracting the virus. I spoke to them every day and tried to reassure them. I also took regular PCR tests. I did not contract the virus during my time with the disinfection programme, but one of my colleagues did.”
The most intensive period of work took place during the first peak of the pandemic in April and May, which coincided with Ramadan.
“In addition to the long hours in the rising heat and humidity of Dubai, I was also fasting,” said Mosharraf. “When sunset came, we would sit together and break our fast with a simple meal, then we continued with our work cleaning the streets. I was determined to finish the job to the best of my abilities. I owe this country a lot. I come from a large family and there are many people who need my support. Back in Bangladesh, I have seven brothers and two sisters.”
While Mosharraf admits to desperately missing loved ones back home and yearning to see his newborn daughter for the first time, he said he is determined to fulfil his responsibilities to the UAE and build his family’s future.
“Everyone in the world is facing Covid-19, so we all need to continue the fight until it is over,” he said. “I’m dreaming of the day when I can hold my newborn daughter in my arms, but until then I will do whatever it takes to make a difference.”
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