Dharavi, one of Mumbai's most congested areas that was once a COVID-19 hotspot did not report any new cases on December 25 on a day when Mumbai city reported close to 600 cases. The relentless efforts of the Municipal authorities coupled with the role of the private general practitioners within the area along with community participation helped in converting Asia's largest slum from a COVID-19 hotspot to having very few active COVID-19 cases.
This "Dharavi Model" has not only been lauded by the Union Health Ministry, but also discussed by the World Health Organization. Controlling the spread of the coronavirus in a 2.5 sq.km area which is a cluster of 10x10 square meter hutments cushioned next to each other with over 8-10 people residing in each of these hutments was an achievement that the WHO wished all other densely populated areas would emulate.
A region favoured by migrants to live in whilst they are working in the city did not see an increase in cases when the migrants who left the city at the onset of the lockdown started to return to the city once the lockdown restrictions were lifted steadily from August.
Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioners of G North Ward, the area which Dharavi falls under, told BOOM that Dharavi was actively carrying out the 4Ts of Tracing, Testing, Tracking and Treating to beat COVID-19. He also emphasised the role of the community in actively controlling the situation.
"Not only did 24 private doctors participate in conducting the 4T's, they even helped in converting community halls, schools, and their own clinics as quarantining and isolation centres. Over 90% of the people who tested positive were treated within Dharavi itself. Only critical patients were admitted to hospitals outside," Dighavkar explained. A 200-bed hospital was set up in14 days with oxygen supply within the area along with forging public-private partnerships.
In August, BOOM visited Dharavi and spoke to Dr. Anil Pachnekar, a local general practitioner who highlighted this public-private partnership endeavour that was undertaken in the area to bring down the spread of the virus. Dr. Pachnekar explained how the primary focus of the officials was to segregate the already positive patients and identify the COVID-19 hotspots in the region. These hotspots were completely sealed and community leaders appointed as COVID Yodhas ensured that the residents within their area abided all the rules.
With over 80% of its population using community toilets, it was necessary for the civic authorities to carry out continuous screening activities and set up fever clinics. In the first phase, these private clinics helped in screening over 3.6 lakh residents within the area. The toilets and areas were also regularly disinfected.
These doctors screened over 47,500 households and mobile vans screened over 14,900 people too. After screening, the people with symptoms were separated from the community thus helping in early detection of cases. The quarantine centres also helped in lowering the spread of the infection in the community as well as reducing the mortality rate. From an average diagnosis of 43 cases daily in May, the area is only witnessing an average of 4 cases daily in December, the assistant commissioner told BOOM.
The 24 private doctors helped in the screening camps were also given PPE kits by the government and their clinics were sanitised by the civic authority. Along with the clinics and increasing centres for isolation, the civic authorities also increased their testing capacities. The centres were not only well equipped with all the necessary medical equipment and medications, but also provided food to the inhabitants from community kitchens that were set up to ensure that the food chain remained unaffected.
The civic authorities are also continuing to distribute over 25,000 grocery kits and 21000 food packets for lunch and dinner separately within the containment zones so people staying inside Dharavi do not have to leave the containment zones. The local corporators, Members of Parliament, and Members of the Legislative Assembly have also distributed grocery and food items to the residents.
"The Dharavi Model, thus, is a testimony of public-private partnership to tackle an unknown disease," concluded Dighavkar.
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