We can’t see the enemy, but everyone is terri­fied. The world is now racing against time to slow the spread of Covid-19 by testing and treating patients, limiting travels, quarantining citizens and encour­aging social distancing. The pan­demic is moving like a wave — one that may yet crash on those least able to cope. And the crisis is defi­nitely set to permanently reshape our world as it continues to un­fold.

The situation is no different in Pakistan. Cases are rising expo­nentially with each passing day, with tally of infected persons crossing 76,000 and death toll surging past 1600 as of now. In this race against time, like other insti­tutions, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society - undoubtedly the leading humanitarian organization in Pa­kistan affiliated with 192 National Societies worldwide - too decided to contribute to the government’s anti-coronavirus efforts, as no gov­ernment can come to grips with such challenges of magnanimous proportions single-handed.

Under the leadership of PRCS Chairman Abrar ul Haq, plenty of initiatives were taken to contain the virus and educate the mass­es about how to avoid contracting the infection. Among some oth­er larger-than-life initiatives tak­en by the PRCS are the launch of Corona Muhafiz Response Cam­paign, Agahi Helpline and the es­tablishment of Corona Care Hospi­tal, Rawalpindi.

Under the Corona Muhafiz Re­sponse Campaign, the Red Cres­cent Muhafiz Force was mobi­lized to connect the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in fight against the monster. In their door-to-door campaign in multiple cities across country, Muhafiz volunteers made sure that no family goes a whole day without food by mak­ing affluent families to share food with their deserving neighbours. Through public announcements from mosques, psychological re­silience was built among those who were going through state of emotional insecurity as a result of prevalent environment due to lockdown. The citizens were made to realize that they are not alone but Pakistan Red Crescent Society is standing by them. The Muhafiz volunteers also fought on the in­formation front, replacing myths and misinformation circulating on social media with authentic scien­tific information. Data collected through Muhafiz application dur­ing the door-to-door campaign can prove to be an asset and help our national institutions vis-à-vis any future planning.

In the first phase, hundreds of Red Crescent Muhafiz Force vol­unteers fanned out in dozens of cities to collect food and monetary contributions, build psychologi­cal resilience of the scared peo­ple and provide them with cor­rect scientific information about the disease. These volunteers vis­ited 1,076 mosques, churches and temples in a short span of time and by using their amplifiers, they exhorted the well-to-do families to donate cooked food, dry ration, and money for the poor families and those rendered jobless due to the lockdown. The volunteers reg­istered a total of 25,667 house­holds and distributed food among 3,117 families.

This initiative, which has now entered its second phase, was highly appreciated by the Inter­national Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Fed­eral of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), who also recommended other na­tional societies to replicate this unique initiative in their respec­tive countries. On the nation­al level, the government of Paki­stan has also replicated this idea in the shape of Tiger Force. With presence in every nook and cor­ner of the country, the PRCS has a huge base of trained volunteers who are always first to respond in the wake of any emergency or disaster. Being a completely apo­litical forum and having huge ac­ceptability among the people, the PRCS is surely a far better plat­form to serve humanity without distinction of any type. It is time for all of us to rise above the little things in the best interest of the nation and the country and syn­ergize our efforts and resources for a better service delivery dur­ing hard times.

Under the Agahi Helpline initi­ative, the PRCS launched a robust awareness campaign through so­cial media and a number of oth­er activities besides informatory brochures and banners developed for distribution among people. A hashtag ‘#EhtiaatKarona’ was cre­ated to encourage people to adopt precautionary measures against the disease. The PRCS has also distributed thousands of N-95 masks, personal protection equip­ment (PPE), reusable/autoclava­ble hoodies, and sanitizers among doctors and paramedics busy treating the coronavirus patients at public-sector hospitals across country.

Casting the net wider in accord­ance with the vision of Chairman Abrar ul Haq, the PRCS decided to contribute in a big way by setting up a hospital to treat the corona­virus patients and sending them back home with a clean bill of health. On an emergent basis, the old building of the PRCS branch in Rawalpindi was given a massive facelift and was metamorphosed into a state-of-the-art coronavi­rus care hospital within record 18 days. Like a close-knit family, al­most everyone at the PRCS down to the watchman chipped in - di­rectly or indirectly - to transform a dream into a reality.

Standing majestically at a stone’s throw from the famous Siddiqui Chowk, the stately hospital - a tes­tament to the monumental efforts and dedication of the PRCS team - is now abuzz with a feverish hu­man activity centered round treat­ing the coronavirus patients and taking best care of them. Around 74 patients have been treated and sent back home, while 20 patients are under treatment.

The three-floor hospital has a 44 trained medical and para medic staff. The hospital, equipped with nine ventilators and other facil­ities, has been set up in accord­ance with the recommendations of the Chinese health experts. It has two buffer zones, male and fe­male isolation wards and an in­tensive care unit (ICU). An exclu­sive fever clinic has also been set up at the hospital in accordance with the ‘three-zone, two-pas­sage’ strategy adopted by the Chi­nese health experts at their hospi­tals to control the flow of citizens. Under this strategy, one zone has been demarcated for the contam­inated people, one for potentially contaminated people, and one for non-infected or non-contaminated people. Each of these zones is sep­arated by two buffer zones many feet apart. A fourth passage has been dedicated for contaminat­ed medical items and other arti­cles whose movements are strict­ly monitored.

The PRCS task force comprising psychiatrists headed by Brig (r) Mowadat Rana is providing psy­chosocial support to the Covid-19 patients at hospital around the clock. The premise of psychosocial support intervention is to control the side- and after-effects on psy­chosocial aspects of an infectious disease and attempt to minimize psychological impact with timely assessment and management of prevention and control. This is one of the unique health care features being offered at RCCH that makes the hospital all different from oth­er coronavirus care health facili­ties in the country

Here I would be doing a huge in­justice if I do not mention the con­tribution of PRCS staff and vol­unteers, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Captain (r) Izhar ul Haq, Vice Chancellor Rawalpin­di Medical University Dr Muham­mad Umar and Sahara for Life Trust Executive Director Maj (r) Israr ul Haq to the hospital pro­ject. They went out of the way to support this ambitious pro­ject and ensured their availability round the clock. They are a valu­able asset that we need to recog­nize, perhaps a little better than we normally do.

As coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across country with number of cases rising exponen­tially, our struggle to help the vul­nerable and save maximum lives is continued with utmost com­mitment and unflinching resolve, for which I owe my gratitude to all those who are wholesome­ly standing with us in this noble cause. Let’s keep staying together, fighting together to save people, save nation and the country.

–The writer is the Secretary General of Pakistan Red Cres­cent Society.