Dharavi, Mumbai: Asia's largest slum area is undergoing an uphill battle to combat the coronavirus
Dharavi, Asia's largest slum area, home to millions of people, having an unending stretch of dirty and narrow lanes, open sewers, overflowing garbage dumps and cramped huts, reported 7 COVID-19 cases so far. The residents at Dharavi are in fear and have stated that they are powerless to combat the deadly disease.
While the most parts of the world are under complete lockdown and people are practising social distancing, hand-hygiene, etc. to contain the spread of the virus, but in a place like Dharavi, it is near to impossible to practise these measures.
First COVID-19 patient at Dharavi
A 56-year old man living in Dharavi was feeling feverish and had a bad cough. On March 23, he went to see a doctor. After examining the man, the doctor prescribed him a cough syrup and paracetamol.
Three days later, his condition worsens, and this time he went to a private hospital. As the man had no travel history (but hosted 5 people who attended a conference in March, organised by Tablighi Jamaat), doctors at the private hospital, once again sent him home with cough syrup.
On March 29, the man went again to the hospital expressing respiratory distress. He was then admitted and three days later he tested positive for COVID-19. The man was then shifted to the hospital treating COVID-19 patients, but it was too late. The man died that evening due to COVID-19. The 56-year old garment trader was the first COVID-19 hit patient from Dharavi who died on April 1 and since then the number of Coronavirus hit patients at Dharavi risen to 7.
COVID-19 hit patients at Dharavi
After the death of first COVID-19 hit patient at Dharavi, the second positive COVID-19 case in Dharavi was reported on April 2, where a 52-year-old BMC sanitisation worker was COVID-19 positive. A 35-year-old doctor, who reportedly caught the infection from his patients in a private hospital, became the third person to test positive in Dharavi.
A 48-year-old man from the Shakti Chawl in Mukund Nagar area was the fourth to test COVID-19 positive where most of the houses use public toilets. The people in the area have been quarantined, but they step out to use the community toilets.
Fifth COVID-19 case is of a 30-year-old woman who tested positive from the area where first death was reported. Most of the buildings have been sealed in this area. The sixth and seventh COVID-19 cases are the father (89-year-old) and brother (49-year-old) of the 30-year-old woman who was the fifth positive COVID-19 case of Dharavi.
Preventive measures are an oxymoron at Dharavi
If you can't imagine a slum within Mumbai, recall the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire which was inspired from Dharavi where social distancing, hygiene measures, etc. are an oxymoron as the place is densely populated, unhygienic and most of them are hand to mouth earners.
You will be surprised to know that more than 80 people at Dharavi share a public toilet (which may prove to be a breeding ground for the virus), many people live together in a small room to share rent, families of 10 live in a small congested room, many houses do not have the facility of running water, therefore hand hygiene is impossible at Dharavi. In addition to this, many people who live here do not have food to survive, so people in large number go out in search of food at ration shops or free food delivery points and thus, social distancing is also nearly impossible.
Slum area of the worst-hit state of India
The situation at Asia's largest slum led to the fear that it could spread the highly contagious disease like wildfire because it is congested, unhygienic and crowded. However, authorities are hopeful and are sanitizing the lanes in addition to sealing several areas and quarantining people. The BMC or Bombay Municipal Corporation will be supplying all the essential items to people to their doorsteps. Screening clinics have been set up in Dharavi. Every patient will be screened and tested while maintaining social distancing protocols from 9 am to 1 pm to contain the spread of the novel virus.
As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Maharashtra is the worst-hit state of India with 748 cases so far including 56 cured and discharged cases and the virus has claimed 45 lives in Maharashtra.