Since April 14th (the date of this update), many projects and initiatives have been launched in response to COVID-19. Please see "COVID-19 responses" for more information about AKDN's response to COVID-19. See also how to protect yourself in the AKDN Special Bulletin.
In these unprecedented times, agencies of the AKDN are pulling together to find creative and effective solutions to sustain the important work that needs to be done to improve the quality of human life.
Working together, several AKDN agencies such as the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), the Aga Khan University (AKU) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) are already treating patients, testing suspected cases, and advising national authorities on their responses and preparedness. A cross-AKDN task force is planning how best to harness its institutions and activities to amplify its responses in order to address the various effects of this pandemic on public health, economic well-being, and social cohesion.
AKDN's operations are also being adapted to complement those of governments. Action areas span serving community needs, including support for public policies on self-isolation and quarantine; developing and introducing a spectrum of protocols for prevention, containment and care; as well as surveillance and case reporting.
AKDN is also engaging with national Ministries of Health to help raise funds for country-specific COVID-19 preparedness plans. The priority is to bolster government diagnostic and care capacities and secure much needed supplies and test kits.
Finally, in anticipation of the need for surge capacity to contain this and future epidemics, long-term system strengthening and local production of Personal Protective Equipment and diagnostic kits are also being considered for investment. Country frameworks are being shared with interested donors.
For information about AKDN Health, please see: https://www.akdn.org/what-we-do/health
In addition to preparing for COVID-19 and continuing to provide high-quality health services in its hospitals, clinics, labs, and public health centres, the Aga Khan University (AKU) is also putting the health and wellbeing of its community and the people they serve as their top priority.
The coronavirus pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges to the regions we serve, and AKU’s health care professionals and researchers are at the forefront of the response. In a time of uncertainty, we are a trusted source of care and expertise.
While the University Hospitals are working around the clock, they are also taking numerous steps to ensure the well-being of faculty, staff and students. In Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom, classes have been suspended or are on break. Online learning is occurring wherever and whenever feasible. Trainees in the Postgraduate Medical Education programme continue to provide clinical care. Staff are working from home when possible, and most events have been postponed or moved online.
“This pandemic presents the greatest challenge the world has seen in decades, and it is critically important that we act, both individually and collectively, such that we are able to change the trajectory of the virus, slow its progress and ultimately halt its impact on our communities, said Firoz Rasul, AKU’s President.
For information about AKU, please see: https://www.aku.edu/
The University of Central Asia (UCA) is also supporting local government and have offered some facilities at the campus as part of the town’s emergency plan for Naryn.
According to UCA’s Rector, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, all schools and universities in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic were closed on 16 March for three weeks in compliance with directives from the respective governments. Classes at UCA’s Naryn campus have been suspended, and students have returned home. They are expected to resume classes on 1 June and continue the current semester. The 2020-2021 academic year is expected to start on schedule in early September.
The rector goes on to write that “at this time the Government of Tajikistan has not issued any directives for closing schools or universities, and we are monitoring the situation closely and will keep you posted of any date changes.
All locations are provided with health screening equipment, sanitizers, masks, and educational posters to inform and protect essential staff from Covid-19.
All University-sponsored events, seminars, and conferences have been cancelled. International travel has been suspended unless deemed critical to the operations of the University. Anyone returning from international travel is required to self-isolate for at least 14 days, regardless of whether symptoms are evident.
For more information, please see: https://ucentralasia.org/
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is adopting several measures. In Pakistan, an Emergency Operations Centre has been activated and a National Crisis Management Committee made up of various members drawn from the AKDN and the Ismaili Community has been formed. It has been agreed that there will be emergency stockpiling of food and medicine in core areas.
In Syria, under the leadership of the Aga Khan Health Services and in close collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation, CERT volunteers have been trained for awareness and possible response activities.
Another example is its work in Shugnan, where it supported the work of the Sanitary Epidemiological Station in conducting awareness raising and training sessions on COVID-19 for relevant stakeholders, including heads of various health centres and medical access points across the district. It also disseminated over 300 information booklets.
Globally, AKAH is rolling out awareness sessions with particular emphasis on the personal hygiene of volunteers. High visibility advisories and posters have been put up in all offices. Cleaning schedules have been increased and personal protection measures have been issued to staff. Given the risks involved with the virus, both Community Emergency Resource Team (CERT) and Search and Rescue Team (SART) volunteers will be provided with the necessary specialist training and protective equipment before they are deployed.
The Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) is finding creative ways in which to sustain learning within the different contexts in which it operates. In countries like Bangladesh, for example, all teachers are now trained to use video communications tools such as Zoom and Google Classroom. Live classes are held whereby students receive their assignments on-line. They can also participate in discussion, have their questions answered, and get their work graded.
In countries such as in Pakistan and Afghanistan where remote learning is more of a challenge due to poor (or a lack of) internet connectivity, staff are providing carefully designated pick up and drop off points for assignments and learning continues beyond English and Mathematics to include a variety of subjects.
“We are mindful of the additional strain and challenges the school closures may put on families,” said Nimet Rener, Director of the Aga Khan Education Services. “AKES is also looking to ensure that the work sent home for children is moderated and support programmes for parents are being planned. Our most important concern at this time is the wellbeing of our staff, students and their families.”
For more information, please see: https://www.agakhanschools.org/
The Aga Khan Academies have put in place e-learning systems, tools and platforms to ensure educational continuity for all students across its three campuses. The Academies have also provided practical support for students, so that each student has the means to access these e-learning platforms from their home environments. For students that benefit from the Academies’ Talent Identification Programme, financial support has been extended to allow students to return home to their families.
Across the network, all essential teaching and non-teaching staff continue to carry out their duties, including smooth delivery of e-learning from 23 March.
For more information, please see: https://www.agakhanacademies.org/
Though physical premises are shut, the work of the Aga Khan Music Programme (AKMP) continues, with teachers remaining actively engaged in their students’music-learning through a variety of ingenious virtual learning tools.
As part of its mission to connect cultures and promote understanding between people, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is rolling out its #MuseumWithoutWalls programme, which allows you to “experience the best of what the Aga Khan Museum has to offer - without having to leave your front door”.
At its virtual #MuseumWithoutWalls, virtual visitors will be able “view priceless artifacts from the Museum Collection; enjoy live performances as well as recorded gems from our archives; download hands-on learning activities for children; engage directly with artists and curators via live webinars and virtual gallery tours; and join the conversation on the Museum’s social media channels”.
For more information, please see: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/
The companies of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) are all playing their part to ensure the necessary measures are adhered to, while maintaining quality assurance. Habib Bank Limited, for example, has partnered with the Government of Pakistan to enable the delivery of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme, the largest social safety net initiative in Pakistan’s history. This programme has been launched by the Government of Pakistan to support the daily wagers and piece-rate workers resulting from the lockdown in the country due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. HBL is leading this effort across Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab and ICT, in disbursing approximately PKR 90 billion to an estimated 7.5 million beneficiaries. In Uganda, Diamond Trust Bank has donated 250 million shillings to the national taskforce and promised to help when required.
At other AKFED constituent companies, recommended precautionary measures such as creating awareness on COVID-19, good hygiene practices and appropriate respiratory etiquette are followed, and measures put in place to facilitate a clean workplace, including washing stations, hand sanitizers, frequent cleaning and wipe down of surfaces regularly touched. The Tourism Promotion Services (TPS) has put in place the highest standards of care and attention to detail while developing and implementing a comprehensive response plan in line with WHO and CDC directives. This includes regular information dissemination, meticulous cleaning protocols and vigilant care throughout its hotels. Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) has been at the forefront of responding to the Government’s and Central Bank of Kenya’s directives, for example, to waive mobile banking charges, encourage online banking and transactions, and to review client and corporate loan repayment schedules. The Nation Media Group (NMG) is paying particular attention to raise awareness of the pandemic as well as the necessary steps to be taken by citizens.
This document will be updated periodically. Last updated on14 April 2020.