ABOUT THE PROJECT
This project focusses on supporting the health and mitigating the effects of contracting COVID-19 of people with disabilities and the elderly by providing masks and hand sanitizer to selected homes and places of care in Khayelitsha, who have been further injusticed by the lack of access to resources and opportunities to prevent the spread and contraction of Covid-19.
ATLANTIC FELLOWS INVOLVED
Advancing policies and programs to reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in air , water, soil and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments.
According to the “Slum Health: Arresting COVID-19 & Improving Well-Being in Urban Informal Settlements” Report (2020), the nature of informal settlements lends itself to increased risk of disease transmission – high densities, and short supply of water, toilets, sewers, drainage, waste collection, and secure and adequate housing. Residents of informal settlements, by virtue of their vulnerable economic status, do not have adequate access to healthcare and supporting structures that could mitigate the effects of disease. Informal settlements in South Africa are characterized by profound inequalities in access to basic services such as water, sanitation, and electricity. Those living in informal settlements experience inadequate housing, lack access to basic services and experience socio-economic challenges. These inequalities are further exacerbated for people with disabilities, the elderly, and children. There are over 450 informal settlements in the City of Cape Town Metro, of which approximately 90 of the largest settlements are located in the Khayelitsha Health sub – district. Khayelitsha became the first township to confirm a COVID-19 infection in March 2020. With the mandatory move in South Africa to wearing non-medical cloth masks outside being implemented, we identified the high level of non-conformance in wearing masks and inconsistency in practicing the golden rules of Covid-19 prevention practices, especially in these vulnerable hotspot communities. This prompted us to embark on the Khayelitsha #Masks4All Initiative that aimed to provide masks, hand sanitizer, and Covid-19 related support services to facilities housing persons with disabilities, the elderly and children. The broad goals of this initiative were to support the economic development of seamstresses from the community through the production of masks to be supplied to facilities that care for vulnerable persons. The Khayelitsha #Masks4All Initiative also aimed to contribute positively to the health and social equalities of these vulnerable persons through the provision of masks, hand santitizer, and Covid-19 education and social support services connections. 6000 masks were produced by 12 community seamstresses, was packaged by EPWP worker volunteers, and in collaboration with Environmental Health Practitioners (EHP’s), was distributed to 48 care facilities across 6 health sub-districts in the City of Cape Town Metro.
Initiative involves the collaboration between three colleagues from the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity South Africa programme. Wendy Somlavi is a young entrepreneur and community member of Khayelitsha. She spearheaded the drive to sew the masks for the #Masks4All Initiative, working with and empowering fellow seamstresses from the community. Lena Stofile works for the City of Cape Town’s Health Department in the Khayelitsha Health sub-district. She is a critical link between our initiative and the EHP’s in the distribution and education of residents and staff in the care facilities. Nikki Green is the proposal developer and drove the coordination and implementation of the Khayelitsha #Masks4All project. The seamstresses were sourced through word of mouth and via an existing sewing organization. After discussions the seamstresses were provided with a pre-sewing package containing mask specs, templates and a sample. From day one of the sewing process, the seamstresses expressed that working together towards a greater cause enhanced their feelings of connectedness and provided them with a sense of belonging. By the end of their production of 6000 masks, the seamstresses shared feeling a sense of economic achievement, as well as a sense of learning and personal development. Along with the 6000 masks, 80x 5L hand sanitizers as well as Covid-19 educational information is being distributed to 48 facilities. Working alongside the EHP’s has proven to be a great advantage in that new connections between us as Senior Fellows and the various sub-district EHP’s have been established for future initiatives, and also the existing relationships that the EHP’s have with their care facilities have been strengthened.
The feedback we have been receiving from the residents and staff at the various care facilities, is that they appreciate the additional support and the Covid-19 related education. In conversation with some facilities and the EHP’s, we realised however that our initial plan of providing Covid-19 related Social Support Services Information via a poster would not be a resource that would be put to the best use as many residents do not have access to resources to facilitate this. We then engaged with various Community Action Networks (CAN’s) across the Western Cape requesting assistance from organisations or services across the 5 sub-districts to link to some or even just one of these care facilities to provide them with access to resources or opportunities that are even more challenging to acquire due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So far we have received various responses from organisations and services offering to provide additional support to the care facilities identified. These organisations and services will be connected to the EHP’s from the respective Health subdistricts who will facilitate this process. With many lessons learnt along the way and many connections and ideas born from this initiative, we are extremely excited to achieve the goals set forth for Khayelitsha