Here are the reasons why Hunza has emerged successfully so far in implementing the measures considered indispensable to overcome the pandemic of Coronavirus in Gilgit-Baltistan. This might be the reason that the valley has currently zero Coronavirus cases.
To begin with, having a large chunk of the population as Ismailis, the JamatKhanas (prayer halls) were closed very early and they remain closed to date. Nobody protested, nobody resisted and everyone followed the guidelines, thanks to the structure of central leadership under the Ismaili Council for Pakistan.
But the concept of volunteerism played the most crucial role. Boy scouts have been deployed at the entry point of every village and even within the villages, these scouts dressed in Khaki uniforms with a scouting scarf that resembles the Ismaili flag. They stand guard at different neighborhoods enforcing social distancing. They don’t need to use force either are allowed by the law but thanks to the deep-rooted concept of respect and regard to the scouts, people listen to them.
Even if a teenager or someone in their early twenties is standing at a certain spot and tells someone in his/her 40s or 50s not to go beyond that point, the person will neither resist nor argue but obey with a smile. Accompanying these young group of boys in their 20s are men wearing red and yellow jackets with the word Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) inscribed on their uniforms.
These are again volunteers of the Community Emergency Response Team who are neither paid nor employees. In normal life, they are businessmen, teachers, government servants or bankers but they are the first responders during any crisis and they are trained for it.
Another beautiful side to the story is the role of students of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and other related medical professions who enlisted themselves as volunteers and every village has at least one such individual in the group of scouts and CERT teams.
These students had returned from different cities of Pakistan after the outbreak. The local traders distributed free masks among the population well ahead of time and most of them closed their business. Now we have certain shops in every village who deliver goods to the doorsteps of customers.
These initiatives made the work very easy for the local administration and that’s why the local administration always turns towards the community for help during crisis and natural calamities. But the war against COVID-19 disease is far from over. Hundreds of students rushed back to Hunza from cities that need to be tested.
On the socio-economic side, the coming few weeks will test the stamina of these volunteers. In the coming weeks and months when the lockdown is partially lifted and tourists from Pakistani cities start pouring in, that would be the real test of our Hunza model because the volunteers would have been exhausted by then.
Moreover, food shortage will hit the region hard given its dependence on products from Pakistani cities which will pose a major challenge for the community institutions and manpower. Let’s hope they already have devised their strategy because these selfless people are well ahead of time. Stay safe my beloved Hunza.
The blog was originally posted on Facebook.