Protecting the Citizens of Rural Islamabad Against COVID-19

Our EMPs at the BasicHealth Unit at Pind Begwal

As of April 19th, according to the Health Advisory Platform created by the government, over 7900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Pakistan, with 1868 recovered patients and 159 deaths. The first official cases were reported at the start of March, and since then, a variety of civil society organizations have stepped up to support the local population. Amongst these is Saving 9. The company delivers medical first aid training and awareness to schools and organizations, and uses the funds generated to conduct development projects with rural populations.

Since 2017, Saving 9 has been providing first aid training and emergency preparedness workshops amongst rural and urban communities. Their model project Maseeha Ambulance, focuses on creating a community of care in Pind Begwal (Union Council 07), a rural community 45 minutes from central Islamabad. An essential part of the ambulance network has been the training of emergency medical personnel recruited from the local population, thus filling an employment and medical access need gap in the area. Along with mental health and trauma awareness training in local schools, Saving 9’s work in Pind Begwal is ongoing.

In the last four weeks, Saving 9 team members have stepped up to address UC-07’s needs, serving a population of 40,000 people, by sharing personal protective equipment with local medical responders and medical staff, as well as working with the Union Council Chairman, the Assistant Commissioner of the Islamabad Police, NGOs such as the Hamza Foundation and local mosques, to make safety announcements and share precautionary measures. Saving 9’s Maseeha Ambulance, a fully-equipped emergency response vehicle serving the community for the past year, is working in collaboration with the National Institute of Health to transport patients safely to and from medical facilities to provide access to COVID-19 testing, disinfection, and implementing quarantine in local areas.

As the situation escalated, efforts were put into collecting food rations as the citizens of Pind Begwal practiced social distancing and self-isolating.The Maseeha EMPs have helped effectively and efficiently in compiling data for distributing rations of up to 408 financially dependent individuals. They have also marked out quarantine zones for patients with potential symptoms of the virus on real and virtual Google maps. Methods for fashioning make-shift protective equipment out of household materials, and methods for sanitizing and re-using PPE were shared with those forced to leave their homes to provide for their families. Throughout this effort, Saving 9 has been collaborating with doctors from Aga Khan University, PAF Hospital, and in the US.

As Maseeha Ambulance becomes more of a community center for the residents of Pind Begwal and UC 7, our major concern is the wellbeing of a largely working class population that faces an economic crisis, and does not have access to resources on COVID-19 protection due to cultural and language constraints. The EMPs also put in efforts for implementing SOPs for handling patient testing, shifting, and disinfection at the cost of their own personal safety with limited resources and Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) .

Moving forward, Saving 9 will be expanding their services for urban populations throughout 2020. Find out more by checking out their website: www.saving9.org, or follow them on instagram at @saving.9.