The Bhopal gas disaster left behind a population that we believe to be the most vulnerable on earth to the effects of Covid-19. Over the past several months since coronavirus arrived in Bhopal, we have shared regular updates on the developing situation, including the measures taken by staff from our own Sambhavna and Chingari clinics, in tandem with survivor groups and community volunteers, to safeguard survivors in the city from the virus. On Saturday we released an advert in the Guardian newspaper, in support of their work, and today we officially launch a new campaign called Bhopal’s Community Shield.
The aim of the campaign is to ensure that the incredible work taking place in Bhopal can continue and to highlight the importance of community mobilisation in towns, cities, and countries around the world to stem the spread of Covid-19. There are three ways you can support our campaign – for more information please head over to our campaign page www.bhopal.org/covid
Join Our Community Shield
• Click here to sign up to our email newsletter and receive a copy of From Bhopal, with Love: A Community-Led Initiative to Protect Against Coronavirus
Be a Community Shield Advocate
• Follow, like and share on social media using #CommunityShield
Support Our Work
• Click here to donate now
A Community in Crisis…
On that night in 1984 when deadly gases leaked from the Union Carbide factory, thousands died of suffocation and nearly half a million more were left with damaged lungs, leading to long-term health problems including respiratory issues, diabetes and cancers. In addition to these underlying health conditions, most survivors are now in the age demographic that puts them at an increased risk from Covid-19. Many live in conditions of extreme poverty, in hutments and shacks open to the elements, whole families sharing a single room. Communities have no access to running water, and many families rely on income from daily-wage labouring jobs – for those healthy enough to work – to survive. In such conditions, the practice of the common protections against Covid-19 put in place globally – social distancing, self-isolation, and the use of personal protective equipment – are a near impossibility. Even worse, the loss of livelihoods and access to essential supplies such as food, water and medicine mean many are facing more immediate crises than the virus, including thirst, starvation and destitution.
The Community Responds
Those in the city familiar with the plight of the survivors, including our own staff at the Sambhavna and Chingari clinics, many of whom are survivors themselves, recognised immediately that action must be taken to safeguard the community from this second invisible killer if another disaster was to be prevented.
To this end, staff from the clinics, along with members of the city’s four main survivor organisations, implemented their own four-step community action plan to shield the surrounding survivor communities from Covid-19.
These steps were the dissemination of information on the virus through a newly-setup local volunteer network, a door-to-door census to identify those with symptoms, the setting up of safe places for self-isolation and the treatment and care of those with Covid-19.
Thus far the action plan has been an unprecedented success. Today there are 846 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bhopal, with 48 deaths, 34 of whom were gas victims. But in the 15 communities in which the action plan was implemented, there have been no confirmed cases and no deaths. Indeed, the measures have proved to be so effective that on May 3rd local authorities, including the Madhya Pradesh state government, agreed to work in tandem with the clinics and other NGO’s in the city to expand this programme of care. The new initiative will include mass monitoring, testing, isolation and treatment of those most at risk due to existing co-morbidities. Now we are asking for your help to make sure that this life-saving work continues unhindered.
Giving Something Back
In creating this incredible model of community-based action against Covid-19, the survivors are not only safeguarding those in Bhopal but also refining a model approach to battling Covid-19 that could prove effective in other communities around the world. Thirty-five years after the Bhopal gas leak, the survivors continue to display the same resilience, resourcefulness and community-mindedness that has marked every stage of their long struggle for justice. What they have achieved and continue to achieve is truly an inspiration to us all.
If you are interested in implementing measures against Covid-19 in your local community, you can read the full details and instructions on the measures in our publication From Bhopal, with Love: A Community-Led Initiative to Protect Against Coronavirus – get a free copy here.
Please consider joining us today and help spread the word about Bhopal’s Community Shield.