COVID-19 continues to claim human lives and simultaneously cripple the economy. Daily wage earners with marginal savings have temporarily lost their jobs. They are unable to access food and essential items. Women who were already facing domestic abuse are grappling with increased violence. Senior citizens, at highest risk of complications and fatality, face acute challenges. The trans community is struggling to make ends meet.
NGOs fighting COVID-19
Amidst this chaos, NGOs fighting COVID-19 have risen to the challenge by working round-the-clock on meagre resources.
Children and the elderly
SOS Children’s Villages of India, an international NGO dedicated to the holistic development of children without parental care and those at risk of abandonment, has signed two MoUs with the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Gujarat. According to the MoUs, this NGO will share knowledge, good practices and technical expertise in designing and implementing the state-run Kinship Care through capacity building of caregivers for 125 children, who have lost parental care in and around Bhuj, Kutch District. When children have no one to care for, their relatives may extend parental care. Under the State’s Palak Mata-Pita Yojana, a welfare scheme for orphaned children, the government has invited the NGO for an effective and impactful implementation of the programme.
Miracle Foundation India has extended financial assistance to Child Care Institutes (CCIs) for supporting vulnerable and orphaned children. The foundation has identified the poorest of poor families for immediate support for basic food and hygiene.
NGO SEEDS in partnership with Government of India and state governments of Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttarakhand in India is reaching out to the vulnerable. SEEDS is reaching out and supporting invisible individuals – the elderly, children, and frontline health workers of the communities who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the outbreak in their time of need. The humanitarian organisation specialising in building resilience among communities is actively working in close coordination with the administration at various levels in each region.
NGO HelpAge works primarily for the health and safety of the elderly. HelpAge is connected with a wide network of Senior Citizens Associations in cities. The not-for-profit organisation’s teams have been calling and reaching out to elders and giving them vital information about do’s & don’ts. As elders are the most vulnerable, they are bound to have high anxiety levels. HelpAge has a toll free Elder Helpline (1800-180-1253) through which this outreach is being done in 24 states. Helpline teams, with the help of volunteers, are delivering elder emergency needs during the lockdown, such as groceries, medicines. In a few states, elders who need urgent medical attention or others who might be suspected Covid patients, are being transported to the district hospitals in consultation with the local administration so that they receive timely care.
Floods in the time of COVID-19
Another disaster that struck the nation during COVID-19 were the 2020 floods. Over 30 million people were affected due to floods this year, with Assam and Bihar experiencing the worst flooding in the last decade. Reacting to the instant need of relief in the affected areas, the Disaster Response team of Smile Foundation provided food and healthcare. The team distributed free medicines and offered basic healthcare facilities, medical diagnosis, pathological test facilities to the affected families.
ChildFund India launched the humanitarian response in 30 villages in Barpeta district of Assam offering a family relief kit comprising hygiene items, mosquito nets, tarpaulins and floor mats. Children received education kits for children and Psychosocial support through the establishment of Child-Centred Spaces (CCS).
SEEDS reached out to affected families in the districts of Golaghat, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Barpeta and Morigaon in Assam and district Saharsa in Bihar, to provide food and safe drinking water. With extensive damage to houses, affected families need to start rebuilding in order to have a roof over their heads. Immediate support for repairing homes and getting basic home utilities are thus the next priorities that they are helping impacted families with.
NGO Aahwahan Foundation has actively distributed more than 1,70,000 soaps and masks across the country in villages. Apart from distributing more than 3,00,000 food packets to displaced migrant workers and daily wage labourers, they have also helped send many of them home by arranging for special buses from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is aiding the Government’s efforts by providing food relief in various locations across the country. As the implementing partner of the Government’s flagship Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Programme, they continue doling out wholesome meals to children. The foundation is also working with various agencies and organisations to implement other food relief efforts. Akshaya Patra Foundation has arranged for food relief kits to be distributed to as many people as possible. These kits comprise of items like rice/flour, tur dal/mung dal, chana, sunflower oil, spices such as turmeric, jeera, and dhaniya powder, sambar masala/garam masala, and pickle. They also contain vegetables with a longer shelf-life, such as potatoes and pumpkins.
Shelter and supplies
To help the underprivileged survive the nation-wide lockdown, Wishes and Blessings, a Delhi-based NGO, has converted daycare centres into shelter homes to ensure that the homeless have a safe space to stay. Hygiene supplies have been procured as well to safeguard the health of all. The NGO is working in tandem with two other organizations – SPYM and Santosh.
Says Dr. Geetanjali Chopra, founder and spokesperson for Wishes and Blessings, “We appreciate the hard work being carried out by CM Arvind Kejriwal and the Delhi government. It is no mean task to feed the lakhs of these people who have no place to call their own. We aim to share the load with the government and other organizations working on the field.”
The sex workers community has been one of the worst-hit sections of society during COVID-19. All sources of income have been blocked and most are unable to access support being provided by the government, due to lack of formal documentation and identification. While executing COVID-19 relief drive in Gurugram, with the aid of special Relief Vans, people at the NGO Wishes and Blessings realized that there was no aid reaching the community of sex workers.
After fundraising and executing due diligence, the relief operations for this demographic started on April 27, 2020. Wishes and Blessings distributed aid to 200 identified families in Gurugram. Operations continued as the months went by and on September 8, ration and essential supplies were distributed to 50 families belonging to the community to fill the gap that was created by the crisis.
Employment of rural youth
The outbreak has had a significant impact on vulnerable and marginalized populations, particularly in rural areas. Nearly 69% of the population in India lives in the villages.
In many parts of rural and small-town India, including places like Koppal in Karnataka, there is uncertainty in the air. The activities that sustain the economy, primarily farming and small scale industry that employ more than half of the workforce in our country, have been badly hit. There is a question mark now against the future of youth in these affected communities. Without timely support, it will be hard for them to achieve financial security in the long run.
Bangalore-based NGO Head Held High Foundation has partnered with Wishonary to provide rural self-employment opportunities to underprivileged youth through their ‘Support for Self-Employment’ campaign. Wishonary and Head Held High Foundation believe that a few quick interventions at this stage can help these youth escape a cycle of poverty and deprivation.
The Gujarat government is keen to develop a robust After Care Programme for youth. SOS Children’s Villages of India will employ an integrated approach in preparing 100 care leavers (shelter home youth over 18) job-ready by mapping their skills to the job market, and providing requisite training, supporting their path to independence. The NGO will also facilitate employment for trained youth and provide life skill education for them to cope with professional work cultures.
Scholarships for students
NGO Fuel has appealed to corporate leaders to jointly work together towards all scholarship beneficiaries of their programmes. Most of the scholarship programmes are designed for underserved communities and the students would be belonging to communities of labourers / daily wagers. Investment of scholarship would deeply depend on how their families overcome the crisis due to Covid-19. Donations can be made to Sahayata Kosh on this link.
Families on the margins
Even as the government is stepping up in several ways, including providing income support, to help low-income families in the coming months, families living on the margins will require additional support to tide over these difficult times. Towards this, donation platform GiveIndia has partnered with non-profits to help families in need and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in India.
Under the mission, GiveIndia has launched two initiatives. While one will help daily wagers put food on the plate, the second, #IndiaAgainstCoronaVirus will provide hygiene kits to underprivileged families who do not have access to soaps, sanitisers, and masks. The social organisation is working closely with trusted NGOs such as CRY, Goonj, Oxfam. Corporate partners, including Omidyar Network India, McKinsey, AU Small Finance Bank have also initiated employee giving campaigns. Most of the corporates will match the donations made by employees.
NGO Goonj is providing emergency relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan, 2020 floods as well as addressing families on the margins in the pandemic. In its COVID-19 relief mission, Goonj has reached out to over 17,000 families and individuals with ration kits, supported 12 community kitchens and distributed more than 77,000 cooked meals. Beneficiaries include migrant labourers, tea garden workers, rag pickers, transgenders, sex workers and remote tribal villagers.
NGOs fighting COVID-19 in India give us hope for recovering with dignity from the spectre of coronavirus.