DNCC, Young Bangla team up to run pandemic mask campaign

Dhaka North City Corporation or DNCC has joined forces with Young Bangla to launch a mass mask campaign designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 12 May 2021, 09:42 PM
Updated : 12 May 2021, 09:42 PM

The campaign aims to substantially increase proper mask-wearing in Dhaka and consequently reduce COVID-19 transmission, and save thousands of lives, the organisers said in a media release on Tuesday.

Other partners of the campaign, led by Mayor Md Atiqul Islam, are Innovations for Poverty Action, Yale University, Stanford Medical School, Centre for Research and Information or CRI, Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, and BD Clean.

As many as 105 volunteers from Young Bangla, the youth secretariat of the CRI, a not-for-profit research wing of the Awami League, are working in the campaign.

In the first design meeting of the campaign, the mayor said, “We need to learn how to manage our lives to cope with the threat of COVID. Proper mask-wearing is a critical part of that.”

The campaign is based on a model called NORMalise mask-wearing model or NORM. Developed by Yale University, Stanford University, and IPA, in partnership with GreenVoice, a local NGO, NORM was rigorously researched using a large-scale randomised evaluation.

The research was similar to vaccine trials, involving 350,000 people across 600 unions throughout Bangladesh for the last four months.

NORM for rural Bangladesh includes four components: distributing free masks, offering information on mask-wearing, reinforcing mask-wearing in-person and in public, and modelling and endorsement by trusted leaders.

NORM increased mask wearing by three times and the results sustained 10 weeks into the model implementation, even after the mask promotion ended. The new DNCC campaign has adapted this model to fit the Dhaka context.

“Ensuring consistent mask-wearing has been a stubborn challenge,” said Mushfiq Mobarak, professor of economics at Yale University, a lead researcher of the NORM study.

“Bangladesh innovated to create a model that can change masking norms quickly, and this is now being replicated globally across a few states in India and Pakistan, and in Latin America. The DNCC mayor’s decisive leadership is allowing us to implement quickly in Dhaka, before the critical Eid travel period.”

The December 2020 issue of CRI’s policy magazine White Board on “COVID-19: Recover and Reimagine” highlighted the early findings of IPA’s collaborative research on the dynamics and benefits of mask-wearing in various settings in Bangladesh.

“What is sure beyond reasonable doubt is that large-scale mask-use and vaccination is the best way to fight the pandemic. As part of this campaign, CRI’s Young Bangla platform continues its on-ground awareness programs and policymaking support on safe-volunteerism and mask-usage,” said Syed Mafiz Kamal, senior analyst at CRI.

With the Eid rush in shops, markets, and transportations this week, the campaign is using the principles of NORM and run a mask-wearing campaign involving the 150 volunteers across eight crowded locations in Dhaka North.

Imran Ahmed, deputy executive director of Shakti Foundation, said, “COVID-19 is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. It is crucial that we strategise our policies and efforts to continue with economic activities while minimising the risk of spread of the virus.”

The campaign has a strong learning component through quantitative and qualitative monitoring.

Data will be collected daily through field action research to provide real-time feedback to improve the campaign’s effectiveness and contextualise the model.

“Adapting the model in the crowded, mobile and complex community context of the urban area will require us to learn fast,” said Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD.