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COVID-19 Outbreak and the Sarvodaya Response

Dear friends,

As at 18th March 2020 (Wednesday) the identified COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka has reached fifty (50), the highest cases reported within the first week of identification in the world. We believe the next two weeks could be critical to manage the situation, that could escalate due to the scores of Sri Lankan migrants who returned to the island from Italy, South Korea and other COVID-19 affected countries. Observing the number of escalating cases, the authorities quarantined many returnees in Designated Quarantine Facilities, but it is still believed that many more infected, would be at large based in their respective communities, paving way to a greater community transmission. 

Parallel to the Sri Lankan Government’s efforts to contain the situation, Sarvodaya, as the largest civil society organization in the country immediately declared a 5-day holiday to all its employees as social distancing has been identified as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread. But, Sarvodaya senior management led by Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne, who himself is a Public Health Specialist, are regularly discussing and evaluating the situation with our nationally based 25 Sarvodaya District Coordinators (representing the 25 administrative districts of Sri Lanka) via Microsoft Teams Online Meetings, enabling two-way communication between the Headquarters and District Centres on a daily basis. The district staff are in close contact with the Government officials in the districts including the District and Divisional Secretaries, Medical Officers of Health (MOHs), Health Officials including Public Health Instructors, with their helping hands, while the Headquarters is dealing with the national authorities including the Ministry of Health and United Nation’s Agencies to extend its fullest support to manage the present crisis. Sarvodaya district staff are constantly communicating with the Sarvodaya villages, and adjacent communities to contain the virus and most importantly to calm them in this situation of panic, while promoting social distancing as a precaution. 

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, the President of Sarvodaya has already taken initiatives to get the correct message across through Sarvodaya Social Media channels, in the form of educational videos and info-graphs in local languages, which has already reached many across the island. They are disseminated through https://www.facebook.com/SarvodayaSriLanka/https://www.facebook.com/Deshodaya/ https://www.facebook.com/Dr.Vinya/ and official WhatsApp and SMS groups to reach different audiences. 

In addition, all training programs, activities, community gatherings and meetings have been postponed promoting public health, well-being and to comply with local regulations. All Sarvodaya residential and training facilities have been closed to prevent any possible risk of further contractions of COVID-19.

On the request of the Ministry of Health, Sarvodaya has released its residential facilities at the Development Education Institute at Anuradhapura (North Central Province) to accommodate 25 patients, attending clinic on a daily basis and who are on dialysis due to Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown aetiology (CKDu), as the special care centre dedicated for CKDu patients are now been converted to a Quarantine Centre. 

Currently Sarvodaya is considering the possibility of supporting elderly who have no means to support themselves, vulnerable families who needs support to source essential medication, and essential food rations if the situation aggravates. Sarvodaya also has given greater emphasis to the Sarvodaya Suwasetha Homes (elderly, children’s, and teenage mothers homes) island wide, regarding their safety, provisions and medical needs during this time of crisis. Sarvodaya monitors the situation closely and is prepared to respond when the need arises.

Sarvodaya imparts its blessings and prayers to those who are already affected by the outbreak and urge all Sri Lankan citizens to strictly adhere to directives given by the administrative and health authorities. We remind and reiterate to fellow Sri Lankans that they must adhere to their Social Responsibility as responsible citizens to face this national and global crisis. Together we could overcome this. 

May All Beings Be Well! 

Chamindha Rajakaruna

Executive Director – Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement

18th March 2020 – 22.00 hours

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