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Artists in the fight against coronavirus

  • Published at 07:09 am April 11th, 2020
Charukala PPE
A group of people representing Charukala are developing face shields highlighting the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals Courtesy

PPE is any device or appliance designed to be worn by an individual when exposed to one or more health and safety hazards

The fanfare, grandeur and enthusiasm for the traditional Mongol Shobhajatra, a rally marking the first day of the Bangla New Year or Pohela Boishakh has long been a subject of high anticipation among people throughout the country. 

In a cruel twist of fate, however, the traditional grand event will not  take place this year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic now sweeping across communities in Bangladesh.

Despite the apparent abandonment of the traditional rally, students, teachers and alumni of Dhaka University's Faculty of Fine Art (FFA), popularly known as Charukala, who find themselves busy in preparing for the rally, have decided to join the fight against the Covid-19.

The Mongol Shobhajatra festival symbolizes the pride the people of Bangladesh have in their folk heritage, as well as their strength and courage to fight against sinister forces, and their vindication of truth and justice.

Instead of making the Mongol Shobhajatra feature various animal-shaped carnival floats, large colourful masks, replicas of birds, butterflies, traditional dolls and other motifs of Bangladeshi culture, this year a group of people representing Charukala are developing face shields highlighting the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals --- medical doctors, nurses, and healthcare givers in the country.

PPE is any device or appliance designed to be worn by an individual when exposed to one or more health and safety hazards. Personal protective equipment helps prevent the spread of germs among the medical facilities. This can protect people and health care workers from infections. 

Face shields developed by a group of people representing Charukala highlighting the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals | Courtesy

A face mask, a vital component of PPE, in the present situation is being sold at a minimum price of Tk400 toTk500 in the market places, the face masks being developed by Charukala students will only cost Tk15 each.

How it all began

Sometime in the month of March, Prof Nisar Hossain, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Dhaka University, and Mainul Abedin, youngest son of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, spearheaded a campaign to join the countrywide fight against the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and infected more than 200 people in Bangladesh as of April 8.

Within a week, Prof Nisar Hossain and two FFA alumni Shahabuddin Sheikh and Tanvir Mahmud put in place their joint effort in developing one of the PPE face shields.

With help from a friend, a textile engineering professional, they have managed to develop a total of 3,500 heavy-duty PPE gowns.

"Initially, we came up with a model of a reusable water-proof and airtight PPE gown in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and with approval from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)," Prof Nisar Hossain said.

Following evaluation, the authorities at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) agreed to accept the equipment, he said.

A younger generation artist, Shahabuddin Sheikh, said BSMMU received a model of PPE and face shield after Professor Nisar held a meeting with Prof Dr Shahana Akhter Rahman, pro-vice chancellor of BSMMU, and Khondoker Manzare Shamim, head of ICU of the same institution.

Moshiul Azam Shajal, senior vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), spontaneously contributed to the making of 3,500 units of PPE from his garments, he added.

On Saturday, the BSMMU authorities received 1,545 units of gowns. Another 1500 units were handed over to them on April 7.

Tough tasks

The collection of raw materials is an arduous task in this time of crisis as markets in general are closed, said Shahabuddin.

A man wearing a face shield developed by a group of people representing Charukala highlighting the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals | Courtesy“In the initial days of our effort, Professor Nisar took us to a market in Bangshal in an effort to collect the raw materials for some 200 face shields, and now materials are becoming too difficult to get,” he said.

In the first phase, the team led by Prof Nisar donated 150 face shields to the authorities of BSMMU on April 2. At least eight medical doctors of BSMMU were given training on how to prepare face shields.

Currently, 15 doctors are preparing face shields, with the Charukala team providing raw materials to them.

"Since the 1952 language movement, fine arts students and artists have committed their heart and soul for the nation in all movements and in times of national crisis. When we noticed a lack of protective equipment in hospitals, we launched a determined effort in the fight against Covid-19 for producing PPE for doctors and healthcare staff,” said Prof Nisar Hossain.

Message for Bangla New Year

Marking the first day of the Bangla New Year in a rather unique way, Charukala has called for human ingenuity and resilience in the face of hardship. It promotes stay-at-home and social distancing measures through virtual banners with the aid of technology, said Prof Nisar Hossain.

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