DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam will inaugurate the campaign in the capital’s Uttara on Tuesday
The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and four other organizations have joined hands to launch the DNCC Mass Masking Campaign, an awareness building program based on research by Yale University and a local NGO on approaching people and politely encouraging them to wear masks.
DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam will inaugurate the campaign in the capital’s Uttara on Tuesday.
A team of researchers, including Yale SOM’s Jason Abaluck and Mushfiq Mobarak, tested four types of interventions to encourage people to wear masks: free masks distributed directly to households, at mosques and markets; endorsements from imams and other community leaders; promotion of masks through videos and brochures; and polite interventions.
The researchers partnered with the NGO, Innovations for Poverty Action, to conduct the study on 340,000 people in 600 villages. Surveillance staff were assigned to observe and record the prevalence of mask-wearing in markets, mosques, tea-stalls and at the main entrances to villages after the intervention methods were implemented.
Altogether the four types of interventions increased the rate of mask wearing from 13% to 42%. However, the greatest impact was observed after the polite intervention method was applied. The DNCC along with BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Innovations for Poverty Action, Bangladesh (IPA), Shakti Foundation and Young Bangla will conduct the mass masking campaign based on the research findings.
The campaign will be carried out at 12 locations of the DNCC: Gabtoli Bus Terminal, Mohammadpur Townhall, Mohammadpur Bus Stand, Mohammadpur Shia Mosque area, Farmgate, Badda and Natun Bazar, Mirpur-1 Circle and Shah Ali Market area, Mirpur-10 circle, Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, Jamuna Future Park Shopping Mall, Uttara Mascot Plaza, Rajlaxmi Shopping Mall and Mohakhali Bus Terminal area.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam told Dhaka Tribune the implementation campaign would face challenges in the capital as urban areas were more densely populated than rural areas.
“We will launch the campaign in Uttara and we plan to run it for the rest of the year,” he told this correspondent.
He said the campaigners would be able to identify the problems in implementing this method in Dhaka and troubleshoot them once the campaign got underway.
The DNCC mayor also told Dhaka Tribune that he had noticed that people who were not wearing masks often ran away from him during his drives at shopping malls.
“There is no need to fear me or anyone else. People need to internalize the fact that they need to wear masks for their own sake. I think this is the aim of this project,” he added.
Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD, told Dhaka Tribune the campaign was more like an action research project, as the organizations would observe and record data on public behaviour while it was running.
“We may fine tune our approach based on our observations,” he added.
He said about 130 volunteers had been trained for the campaign and would be on the field at least for the next six months.
“We do not have a hard and fast timeline for this, but I can assure everyone that it will run at least till the end of this year, because Covid-19 is here for the long haul. Vaccinating people and wearing masks are the key tools to fight off the virus,” Dr Imran further said.
“People will be motivated to put on masks if influential people and volunteers approach them and politely ask them to put on masks. Free access to masks is also a motivator,” he added.
Explaining the polite intervention method, development economist Mushfiq Mobarak said: “We deployed people to monitor areas for people who were not wearing masks. If someone was found not wearing a mask, the monitors would politely ask them why they were not wearing one and to put one on. If people said they did not have masks, the monitors would offer them free surgical masks.”