It has been proven by medical experts and researchers across the world that the use of masks can slow down the spread of Corona Virus which is highly infectious and spreading rapidly across the globe. It spreads mainly through respiratory droplets; and therefore, a good and correctly placed mask not only protects oneself but also from spreading it to others. Having said that time and again, a large section of the population, also those living in the informal settlements are very casual and carefree about wearing masks, more so because they have a lot of misconceptions regarding COVID19 and sometimes due to the false beliefs that it won’t affect their locality/community. Although the lockdown has imposed strict restrictions on the movement of residents, and strict code of conduct for business and commercial areas across cities, there is a certain laxity in following the precautionary measures across all strata of the society.
Shelter Associates, an NGO working around the implementation of WASH in the informal settlements of Maharashtra, even during such challenging conditions, is mobilising slum communities around household toilets and COVID19 prevention. Observations from the communities suggest an urgent need to spread awareness on the use of masks and its importance. Whether buying regular grocery items, going to the medical store for medicines or visiting the community toilet; most of the residents prefer to go out without masks for their daily chores. Another thing noticed is that many people are wearing masks, but only partially covering the mouth and nose , which entirely defeats the purpose of wearing one. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Shelter Associates has initiated the ‘No Mask No Task’ campaign with the sole objective of creating awareness on 100% mask use in the informal settlements of Maharashtra. The campaign is active in the selected slum settlements of Navi Mumbai and Kolhapur.
As a part of this campaign, the community volunteers visit door to door to educate families to use masks while moving out of their homes; inform shopkeepers and street vendors to strictly enforce the use of mask during transactions; communicate with CTB Caretakers to prevent residents from using the toilets unless they wear a proper mask while entering. For the success of this campaign, the community volunteers are trained extensively on COVID19 background, its spread and preventive measures. Unless fully convinced, they will not be in a position to effectively communicate the need for a mask, therefore SA has taken extra efforts in briefing communities and motivating people to follow related precautionary steps.
To make the campaign more effective, community volunteers have also printed eye-catching and informative posters while some created handmade posters in places where printing is not possible due to the lockdown. These posters are displayed at prominent places around the settlement such as shops, busy corners, Community Toilets etc., creating continuous visibility and making immediate visual impressions on its onlookers. The posters have been reaching a wide audience, especially in these densely packed slum areas where many people are likely to see them. Supporting the efforts of Shelter Associates, responsible residents within the community also play a pivotal role in the advocacy of mask use by creating posters and spreading awareness in the interest of other residents.
And now that we all are expecting to hit the third wave COVID19 which is projected to be much more harmful than the present wave, there exists a need for extensive mobilization where individuals are educated on the significance of mask use, within their communities. While it takes a lot of effort to create behavioural change among the people, if we don’t fight this war now, we will definitely fall victim to this pandemic. If a majority of people behave responsibly, we will certainly minimise the impact of this life-threatening catastrophe. Let’s be safe and keep others safe!