KARACHI: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, has started distributing 218,000 cloth masks and 75,000 soaps to the population of Machar Colony located in Kemari town, Karachi.
The door-to-door mass distribution of soaps and re-usable masks will take place over five days, and aims to provide the community with tools to help prevent COVID-19 spread from infected and asymptomatic patients to the general population. Every individual above 12 years of age is receiving two masks while three bars of soap are being provided to every household in Machar Colony.
This activity is being conducted with the support of the Sindh Health Department through a team of over 100 community health care workers.
Pakistan saw a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in June after Eid-ul-Fitr. As Eid-ul-Azha is another occasion of gathering and frequent social interaction, MSF is completing the distribution of masks before the Eid holidays in order to reduce the risk of high transmission due to possible noncompliance of social distancing and other safety measures during the celebrations.
MSFs medical coordinator in Pakistan Anna Cilliers said, the use of masks and regular handwashing with soap and water are proven measures to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. In an informal urban community like Machar Colony where social distancing is hard to maintain due to the crowded housing and high density population, the availability of tools to implement face covering and hand hygiene are important for every household. We acknowledge the support of the community health workers who will be distributing such a large quantity of masks and soaps, she expressed.
With over 113,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in whole of Sindh, Karachi is the most affected city in the province. Machar colony is located at the edge of a fish harbor and has an estimated population of 120,000. With small-spaced housing and living with extended family members can cause the difficulty to carry out physical distancing and could entail the risk of transmission at a rapid speed. International research has confirmed that mask wearing alone contributes significantly to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Our health promotion team is using a local cable TV network, social media and face-to-face sessions to promote protective measures including mask wearing, Anna Cilliers added.
MSF has been working in Machar Colony since 2012 and has been running a programme providing hepatitis C care since 2015. It has developed a simplified model of decentralized care providing diagnostics, consultation, treatment, health education and patient support services at a primary healthcare level under one roof. MSF aims to reach the most high-risk groups, which includes high risk occupations, in Machar Colony while focusing on knowledge transfer, community outreach, advocating for better and low cost diagnostic and treatment options for hepatitis C patients in Sindh.
Médecins Sans Frontières is an international medical humanitarian association that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF first started working in Pakistan in 1986, and now provides urgently needed quality medical care to people in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces. MSF works in collaboration with the health authorities in the country and its activities in Pakistan are funded solely by private donations, with no institutional or government contributions.