Washington: The World Bank on Wednesday praised the efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Mumbai’s Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums, saying its success stemmed from a combination of customised solutions, community involvement and perseverance.
Dharavi’s stellar turnaround from being a Covid-19 hotspot to offering a template on how to contain the pandemic couldn’t have been possible without community action, particularly from an unsung group of 180 maulvis and maulanas of 500-odd mosques in the slum who not only dispelled myths about Covid-19 but also urged people to look out for each other. For nearly six months, they implored residents to stay at home for the sake of their country while also warning of a social boycott for violating the lockdown. The tactic worked.
Muslims comprise around 30 per cent of Dharavi’s population. Meraj Husain, who spearheaded the initiative from NGO Bhamla Foundation with the help of the maulvis, maulanas and young volunteers, said community members took it upon themselves to create awareness after the first case was reported in Labour Camp on April 1.
Clerics convinced Covid-19 naysayers and stopped people from venturing out during Ramzan, Eid and Badi Raat. The maulvis reminded them that their religious faith also lays stress on protecting the country and its people, and urged them not be careless so as to ruin its chances of beating the virus. The Covid-19 cynics, who refused to stay in, were frightened into obedience. Carrying photographs of youngsters from the community who had died of Covid-19, the maulvis told disbelieving families of the horrors that the virus had wreaked upon them. This deterred many from going outside their homes.
From invoking the fear of God to warning of a social boycott, the moulvis asked residents after the azaan to abide by the lockdown restrictions. Maulana Farooqi Shaikh of Jama Masjid in Dharavi said, “Over a 5-minute message through the loudspeaker, we asked people to observe the curfew, to keep children inside, and to step out only when needed.”
He further disclosed that the volunteers distributed fruits and food to every community household in order to prevent people from venturing out during religious festivals.
Acclaiming that the maulvis and maulanas played a crucial role in fighting Covid-19, Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner of G-North ward said “What maulvis say is considered the last word and taken as a directive. In a slum like Dharavi, where social distancing wasn’t possible, their message to the people on following safety protocols helped us contain the pandemic.”
Dharavi, which is located in India’s commercial capital Mumbai, is spread over an area of 2.5 square kilometres and has a population of 650,000. People live in shanties and dilapidated buildings with narrow lanes and open sewers.
The first COVID-19 patient in Dharavi was detected on April 1, nearly three weeks after Mumbai recorded its maiden positive case on March 11.
The Washington-based global lender, in its biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity report, said that in the space of three months, by July 2020, reported cases in the area had been cut to 20 per cent of their peak in May.
Observing that effective approaches have tapped the skills and dedication of community members, the World Bank said that in Mumbai, city officials were able to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Dharavi, one of the city’s largest urban settlements, by mobilising community members and staff from private medical clinics for a strategy based on mass screening for fever and oxygen levels.
To help poor families during the lockdown, foundations, nongovernmental organisations and volunteers provided thousands of households with ration kits.
Dharavi’s success stemmed from a combination of customised solutions, community involvement and perseverance , it said.
On Tuesday, a Mumbai civic body official said that the COVID-19 tally in Dharavi slum colony rose to 3,280 with the addition of 22 fresh cases.
Of the total 3,280 cases, 2,795 patients have been recovered from the infection, he said, adding that the slum now has 192 active patients.
In July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also praised the efforts taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Dharavi, underscoring the need for community engagement along with national unity and global solidarity to turn the pandemic around.
According to the Union Health Ministry data, India’s COVID-19 tally of cases climbed to 67.57 lakh with 72,049 new cases in a day, while 57,44,693 people have recuperated so far, pushing the national recovery rate to 85.02 per cent on Wednesday.
The total coronavirus cases mounted to 67,57,131, while the death toll climbed to 1,04,555 with the novel coronavirus virus claiming 986 lives in a span of 24 hours in the country, it said.
According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the contagion has infected over 35 million people and killed more than 1 million across the world.
The US is the worst affected country with over 7.5 million cases and more than 2,10,000 deaths.
The COVID-19, which originated in China’s Wuhan city in December last year, has also battered the world economy with the International Monetary Fund saying that the global economy is bound to suffer a “severe recession”.