The Community Support Teams (CST) has been working to preserve hospital capacity by slowing down coronavirus transmission at the community level through targeted home isolation and family quarantine for symptomatic individuals combined with the promotion of public mask-wearing.
The initiative was designed under the leadership of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in partnership with UN Organizations (FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP), NGOs (BRAC), a number of volunteer organizations (Platform, Himu, Youth Bangla), and IT partners (a2i, CMED).
The CST initiative was piloted for two weeks in Dhaka and Khulna in April 2020 as a proof of concept. Funding for CST was then secured through World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility grant to UNFPA and USAID’s support to FAO.
The first phase of implementation began in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) at the end of June amid the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Following in-service training led by FAO, 283 individuals have been trained and are covering all DNCC wards. Teams of community-based volunteers known as CSTs are trained to clinically assess individuals reporting COVID-19 symptoms.
In the process, Individuals with symptoms similar to that of coronavirus are mainly identified through either the national 333 hotline or local word of mouth.
The CSTs travel to the individual’s home and a strict case definition of presence of both COVID-related symptoms and fever is used by the CSTs to evaluate if these individuals have a higher probability of being COVID-positive.
If they meet the case definition, individuals are referred to as “Verified Virus Fighters” (VVF) and then counseled on maintaining home isolation and quarantine of their entire household for 14 days.
To support VVFs and their families throughout the quarantine period, CSTs provide essential medicine as well as facilitate delivery of food support to vulnerable households. VVFs are also connected to medical experts via dedicated telemedicine support and can be referred to hospitals in the case of severe or critical disease.
On behalf of the RCCE pillar, UNICEF is supporting the community engagement component of this initiative. A set of communication materials that includes posters, leaflets, stickers, local and mosque miking scripts has been developed and shared with the partners.
An area-specific social media campaign will also be launched to support CST rollout, emphasizing the importance of staying home and requesting assistance if developing symptoms of COVID.
Meanwhile, four meetings were held with DNCC to coordinate field implementation in an integrated manner with community leadership.
The CST is likely to extend its activities to Dhaka South City Corporation, and then to Narayanganj and Gazipur districts following establishment of the programme in DNCC.