In these days of trouble, one thing that we have to understand and make a strong effort toward solving is knowledge accessibility. There’s no second opinion on the inefficacy of our education system, which has led to an immense social and economic disparity. It requires intervention on the scale of infrastructure, governance, and execution, but most importantly, it requires empathy.
Ever since the spread of SARS- CoV-2 (COVID-19) started making rounds on news and social media, public health organizations and government institutes started to undertake interventions that could contain the spread of the virus, treat infected people and protect the ones who could be at risk.
Prevention, at many times, serves as the best tool to fight against such outbreaks. This is why everyone started rallying around “Flattening The Curve,” i.e., undertaking measures that will slow down the spread of the diseases, thus buying the first-responders a critical resource called time. Drastic measures have been taken to flatten this curve; countries have locked down, citizens put in quarantine, public gatherings have been banned.
Another essential campaign that started as an individual measure to help flatten the curve was washing hands with soap!
For us, knowing that we have a non-existent healthcare research ecosystem, which is translatory, individual and community-based measures such as physical distancing, washing hands, avoiding unnecessary contact with potentially harmful surfaces, covering face while coughing and sneezing, are the only options to spread the virus. Our present healthcare system can diagnose a limited amount of patients, but what next? Do we have enough ventilators? No. Is our spending on Science & Technology coupled with a policy framework at a position where a therapeutic could develop, tested, and deployed? No!
While there have been several guidelines distributed by WHO to ensure that the public takes necessary precautionary measures for protection against COVID-19, these guidelines are in English, and in Pakistan, at best, these are in Urdu. These circumstances make a significant portion of the population that cannot understand English, increasingly vulnerable.
Our team at Genes & Machines decided to undertake a community effort to increase the accessibility of precautionary guidelines for local communities within Pakistan, along with general awareness to prevent infections and the spread of viral diseases. We translated precautionary guidelines from English to Urdu, Sindhi, Balochi, and Pushto. We were supported by several local organizations and initiatives in Pakistan such as Pukhtoogle, Thar Education Alliance, Scientia, Campaignistan, The Writers Lounge, OASIS, along with others in their capacities.
These partners helped in ensuring two things,
- The guidelines were accurately translated
- They reached the people they were initially intended to.
And we were glad that it happened, but this isn’t enough. There are A vast majority of people who still are unaware of what to do at this point? There is a massive percentage of the population that does not have digital access.
These translations are open and free to use. In this challenging time, we want to help in whichever capacity we can to help spread the message to help spread the awareness. If you’re a content creator, a digital media agency, someone from the government, if you’re at home worried about what to tell your family and friends, if you want to announce it to your neighborhood through your local mosque, use these!
The guidelines are available at this link.
Also, this is a time where many people will go unnoticed, and these will be expected to affect the most by physical distancing and lockdowns, and also those who will not be able to afford the resources necessary to move to online education, help them out with the resources you have. We are all united, and together we can make a significant difference.
We are hopeful of keeping up these efforts to help create more guidelines and translate important research work if you want to partner, email at [email protected].
Hassnain Qasim Bokhari is a science communicator and a synthetic biologist currently affiliated with the iGEM Foundation, USA. He also works with various STEM-based organizations working on community development, education and advocacy. He tweets at @QasimHassnain