How Kashmir’s ‘Ehsaas International’ helps frontline healthcare workers

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By Zahoor Hussain

The spurt in coronavirus cases in Kashmir valley is continuing unabated as more than 500 cases have been reported so far while as many as seven people have died from the virus.

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Amid the considerable spike in virus cases, Ehsaas International, a Srinagar based non socio- political organization, goes on with its untiring efforts that has made the fight against this pandemic easy.

Soon after the first corona case was reported in the valley on March 17, Ehsaas International plunged in to take care of medics and other frontline healthcare workers.

“We thought innovatively and started making personal protective equipments or PPE’s, face masks and face shields indigenously that were approved by experts. We scaled up production and used up all the material available in valley; then we managed to procure a full truck load of non woven polypropylene fabric from Jaipur and doubled our production,” Hakeem Mohammad Ilyas, General Secretary, Ehsaas International told Muslim Mirror.

“Since March 26 we catered to every hospital and quarantine center of Srinagar and reached to other districts as well. Till now we have crossed production of 20,000 PPE’s, 45,000 face masks and so on,” he added.

There are more than 350 skilled workers and volunteers associated with Ehsaas International. They are working in different centers of the organization or based in different districts of the valley.

“Our organization is a trust. We provide all our services without any charges. But we can’t deny the support of administration. They are providing us transport and most importantly moral support,” said Hakeem Ilyas.

“We are on a mission and we are marching ahead shoulder to shoulder with our frontline healthcare workers, they care for us, we care for them… Our mission is multi-pronged, while we make PPE Kits to help our medics, we generated employment for craftsmen who are engaged in stitching PPE’s for our trust, he added.

Hakeem Ilyas said that ‘Ehsaas Internation’ started its fight against coronavirus on March 23 and has until now fulfilled every demand received.

“Besides health workers, we provide face masks and PPE’s to employees of ‘food supplies’ and ‘roads and buildings’ departments. Whosoever is dealing with coronavirus patients or working as ‘coronavirus warriors’ we provided them protection equipments,” he further added.

“Authorities in government call us whenever there is need of protective equipments in any hospital or other institution. Our team receives that requisition and subsequently necessary equipments are delivered,” said Syed Tabasum Geelani, Chairman, Ehsaas International in an interview with BBC Urdu.

“Initially we thought who will help the society in this hour of need. They are only and only our frontline health workers. We stepped in to give them backend support,” he added.

The Humble Beginning

Tahir Makhdoomi who is the Chief Spokesperson of the organization said that the journey to assist frontline health workers began in the third week of March. “Kashmir reported the first coronavirus case on March 17. Soon after, we called a meeting to discuss how we can help our people. We found that there is the shortage of PPE’s throughout the world as a result doctors are getting infected,” he told Muslim Mirror.

“We collected around 16 tons of polypropylene non woven fabric from the valley. Administration provided us movement passes and we were able to procure 20 tons from outside the valley. On March 23, we were able to make first PPE,” he added.

Makhdoomi said that the centers run by ‘Ehsaas International’ are making the PPE kits according to the guidelines of World Health Organization (WHO). “We searched on ‘Google’ how we can make PPE’s according to the guidelines of WHO. We tested our first PPE. We did water and color testing. We succeeded in the test. On the next day (March 24) we were able to make 1200 PPE’s and started distribution,” he said.

“We opened around 30 centers across the valley. We instructed these centers to make PPE’s according to the guidelines of WHO. We had meetings with these center heads and skilled workers. We have distributed face masks and PPE’s among the hospitals and other departments across the valley,” Makhdoomi said.

Giving details of production, Makhdoomi said the organization is producing 1200 to 1500 PPE’s and four to five thousand face masks per day.

“There are more than 350 volunteers and skilled workers working with us. They are based in different district of the valley. Whenever they get ‘requests’ from hospitals and other departments; they call us and we provide them requisite protection equipments. There are around 20 volunteers working at our head-office. We check material before sending it to any hospital or department,” he added.

Meet Some Backend Corona Warriors

As mentioned above that there are more than 350 backend corona warriors associated with ‘Ehsaas International’, therefore, it is not possible to introduce each warrior here. Some of them are:

Sadaf Firdous

Sadaf Firdous

Sadaf  is chief programme coordinator for winter coaching centers run by Ehsaas International. Now she is associated with Ehsaas coronavirus emergency team. She is incharge of the quality control ensuring that production standards are taken well care of.

Snowber Ali

Snowber is office secretary at Ehsaas International. She is considered as a strong and influential team member. She has been working 24*7 since the beginning of coronavirus emergency work. She has been maintaining the inventory and ensuring the centers are receiving raw material every day before dawn and the finished products are picked up and packed in a hygienic way.

Ifrah Butt

Ifrah is programme director of Bridge Institute London who has been volunteering with Ehsaas International for coronavirus emergency. She has been working with Ehsaas team tirelessly to ensure frontline health workers are safe. Over past few days she has digitized the work done by Ehsaas International.

Zeeshan Abass

Zeeshan is a businessman who deals with handicrafts. He has been part of Ehsaas coronavirus emergency work since beginning. He has been in-charge of 6 centers which are producing locally made PPE’s and other protective gear. To avoid footprints on ground he is himself collecting the gear and delivering the finished items to Ehsaas International office every day. Every morning he leaves his home with dedication and countless blessings of his mother. His mother ensures Zeeshan leaves the home under the shade of Holy Quran.

Ehsan Ali Bhat

Ehsan a Student of Islamia College pursuing BSC is a young polite fellow who is volunteering with Ehsaas International for coronavirus emergency work. He has given his best to ensure the protective gear for hospitals and quarantine centers are packed efficiently. When he was asked why he wants to take the risk during these turbulent times? His response was “this is for my community and I owe everything to it, including my life”.

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Zahoor Hussain is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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