Raincoats and rubber boots for Edhi Foundation workers in coronavirus fight

Updated March 27, 2020

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A volunteer of the Edhi Foundation hangs up raincoats to be used to handle suspected carriers of the coronavirus disease in Karachi on March 26, 2020.—Reuters
A volunteer of the Edhi Foundation hangs up raincoats to be used to handle suspected carriers of the coronavirus disease in Karachi on March 26, 2020.—Reuters
Volunteers of the Edhi Foundation wear raincoats and boots as they pose during a mock drill on handling suspected carriers of the coronavirus disease in Karachi. —Reuters
Volunteers of the Edhi Foundation wear raincoats and boots as they pose during a mock drill on handling suspected carriers of the coronavirus disease in Karachi. —Reuters

The Edhi Foundation — famous for its emergency services and shelter homes for the country's poor — is kitting staff out in rain coats and rubber boots in the battle against coronavirus as it can’t get hold of proper personal protective equipment, the organisation says.

Pakistan has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections in South Asia, with 1,238 cases and nine deaths, but health experts say there is a lack of public awareness about the virus and the cash-strapped government is ill-prepared to tackle it.

Read: A month on, Pakistan's Covid-19 trajectory from patient zero to 1,000 and beyond

The Edhi Foundation has for decades stepped in to help when government services fail communities and it runs the country’s largest ambulance service.

Now it has had to train dozens of staff on how to handle suspected coronavirus patients. But providing them with proper protection is a problem given a nationwide shortage of the equipment.

“We’ve compromised on certain things and use alternatives,” Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi Foundation, told Reuters at his office in Karachi on Thursday.

Faisal Edhi, head of Edhi Foundation gestures as he speaks in his office in Karachi. —Reuters
Faisal Edhi, head of Edhi Foundation gestures as he speaks in his office in Karachi. —Reuters

“Full aprons are in short supply in the market.” He said he was confident the raincoats would work just as well.

Doctors in the capital, Islamabad, last week threatened to go on strike over a lack of protective equipment in hospitals.

Read: People serving on front line bravely face coronavirus threat

The health ministry has acknowledged some problems with facilities and shortages of equipment to tackle the virus and officials have said they are importing personal protection equipment from China.

Edhi said his organisation was getting dozens of calls a day from people worried that they or their relatives were infected with the coronavirus. “We advise them to self-isolate and separate the utensils,” he said.