Imagine a place where 8-10 people live in 100 square feet structures. A place which squeezes close to 6,50,000 people, 5,000 small factories, and about 15,000 single-room workshops in just 2.5 square kilometer area. Welcome to Dharavi, the biggest slum of Asia situated in the heart of fashion, entertainment, and commercial capital of India, Mumbai.
When the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Dharavi, it caused massive panic among the citizens as well as officials. Social distancing is virtually impossible to achieve in Dharavi, which is a maze of narrow congested lanes with tenements on either side of it and where 80% of the population use community toilets.
With their fingers crossed, people were speculating about Dharavi turning into a graveyard. These fears turned out to be misplaced and three months later Dharavi won praise from the WHO for effectively restricting the spread of coronavirus. According to the official data, the COVID-19 case doubling rate improved greatly, from 18 days in April, to 43 days in May, to 108 days in June, and 480 days in July.
Mr. Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioner of the top civic body of Mumbai, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that their undertaking of an aggressive strategy of 4T’s - Tracing, Tracking, Testing & Treating, is the key to Dharavi’s successful fightback against the pandemic. The fightback plan was aptly coined "Mission Dharavi".
Extensive screening and testing of residents was done to detect the symptoms for coronavirus in "fever camp" which were set up by medical workers in different parts of the slum everyday. Many buildings such as schools, wedding halls, and sports complexes were overtaken by the civic authorities and were repurposed as quarantine facilities. A 200-bed hospital was also set up in record 14 days.
The BMC commissioner, I S Chahal said “Proactive screening helped in early detection, timely treatment and recovery.” Close to six hundred thousand people were screened, 14,000 people tested and 13,000 quarantined in nearby institutions, schools, marriage halls, and sports complexes. Furthermore, continuous monitoring of people’s movement using drones helped reinforce containment measures and scaled progress swiftly.
To further strengthen the measure, locals of the community emerged as “COVID Yodhas” (warriors) to address the concerns, a senior official said. Many well endowed citizens and NGO’s provided Free meals, ration, PPE gear, oxygen cylinders, gloves, masks, medicines, and ventilators to residents and doctors.th July
On 8th July 2020 Dharavi recorded a total of 2,335 COVID-19 out of which 1,735 patients have recovered and there are only 352 active cases at present. Only 82 deaths were recorded in Dharavi till 8th July as against more than 4500 in the whole of Mumbai.
This phenomenal success has given the world a yet simple and effective technique in curbing the spread of the deadly virus. World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a virtual press conference in Geneva, acknowledging the efforts of various nations and Dharavi to contain the virus, said that “There are many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control”. Further, he added, “And some of these examples are Italy, Spain, and South Korea, and even in Dharavi -- a densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai -- a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission and suppressing the virus.”