Thousands of Pakistan’s urban slums residents flock to UN-Habitat’s handwashing stations

United Nations-Habitat

ISLAMABAD, Sep 01 (APP): United Nations-Habitat Pakistan has joined forces with Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change to help prevent spread of COVID-19 in urban slums and ease economic impact on the vulnerable residents.

A pilot “Pakistan COVID-19 Urban Slums Response Programme” was launched in two urban slums, Dhok Hassu and Dhok Mangtal, in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to Federal Capital Islamabad, said a news release.

Hand washing stations designed according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, were installed and are being used by over 800 people a day including children, sanitary workers and the business community.

Amjad, a local shopkeeper said, “We had no place to wash hands in the markets before the pilot. We thank UN-Habitat for installing the handwashing stations in the markets. They help to protect us from COVID-19.”

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To raise awareness on COVID-19 and disseminate information, a whatsapp group was created involving 10 percent of the target population. In addition disinfectant sprays are being used in hotspots, streets and markets and there are frequent temperature checks, distribution of sanitizers, masks and gloves and environmentally safe collection and disposal of solid and hazardous waste.

The local community was engaged to to produce masks and gloves and other related activities providing employment.

Rukhsana Majeed who lives in Dhok Hassu said, “We are happy that this project has helped us to earn a living by introducing this source of income generation of stitching of masks.”

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A rapid assessment of conditions in the pilot area looked at the socio-economic vulnerabilities, existing capacity and community concerns. It showed that residents have no access to adequate sanitation facilities or water for drinking or hand washing.

In addition over a third of respondents – 37 per cent – said they had lost their jobs after a lockdown was imposed.

UN-Habitat is preparing to launch the Pakistan COVID-19 Urban Slums Response Programme (PCUSRP) at country level and invites other UN Agencies and donors to participate.