We are entering the second week of our Covid19 Response Initiative. The lock-down has also entered the second week . The first week has been very challenging for many, especially migrant laborers from different States who were in the cities. Most started moving out to their native locations, leading to huge crowds at train stations, bus stands and other places. As public transport facility wasn’t available, many even decided to walk long distances . Here are some highlights of the week 1 of our Covid19 Response:
It was slow start, initially. As days progressed, the pace of work gained speed. First day’s field work started with providing 4,500 meals to 65 families in Hebbal, Bangalore. By the 6th day, total 239,030 meals have been provided to over 40,000 people in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. When we started work, our initial plan was to reach 20,000 people as the month progresses. However this number was not only achieved in a day or two but also doubled in a matter of 5 days. On a lighter note, we have outpaced the virus and if it stays that way, it will be a good thing really. In India, the virus seems to be going at a slower pace than most other countries (reports suggest that the speed at which the number of confirmed cases rose from 100 to 1,000 has been relatively slower in India compared to the most affected countries).
Partner organizations have been exceptional – total 21 NGOs who are RAHI’s regular partners have been on the ground since day 1 and are managing the food distribution process. The advantage of working with this team is, they are locally grounded, they know the local communities very well and thus, they can organize field level distribution following social distancing and other such measures as required to prevent crowding. That said, it has been a real challenge to enforce this concept of social distancing. (People do stand apart when food packets or boxes are given, but pictures have to be taken while handing over the packets/boxes, and invariably the giver and taker have to be together -:)). True, maintaining physical distance is actually a luxury in many locations. But even if we succeed in somehow achieving that, the photos and selfies are done together. We have to do better. By and large though, partners have been able to organize distribution without crowd. In some locations, RAHI team received great support by local police and administrative authorities,
A live kitchen has been started in Mumbai by Ratna Nidhi Trust (partner of RAHI) where about 2,500 RAHI khichdi meals (rice/dal mix) are being cooked daily. Meals are neatly packed and sent to feed shelter-less and stranded workers in places such as Kurla, VT Station, Churchgate Railway Station, Byculla, Dharavi, Bandra, Fountain. The khichdi is becoming quite popular among the people, and there is demand for more. So from tomorrow, 3000 meals will be cooked daily.
Our partner organizations Prerna Ngo and Global Sikh Aid, received SOS requests from a group of 270 migrant laborers from Jharkhand in Rangpuri Pahari and about 90 Afghan refugees in Malviya Nagar, Hauz Rani – immediate arrangement was made to provide food and other items in both the locations.
RAHI’s internal team has been busy working with vendors and suppliers to get fresh supplies to get additional packets ready – it has been a challenge to source ingredients. Since we are regular bulk purchaser consistently round the year, our vendor partners have been extremely helpful in organizing supplies. We are still facing some challenges in securing few items in Delhi, but we should get it fixed soon. In our warehouses (Mumbai and Bangalore), staff and few volunteers are busy packaging meals. Normally, we would encourage volunteers to participate in packaging, but it is not possible under the current circumstances. Even with our team, we have applied strict measures and advised them to stay far from one another & use personal protective equipment.
There is a huge surge in demand for meals from all over. Calls, messages and emails are coming from individuals and groups from at least 8 States to extend support. While our initial focus was only in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi – yesterday, one of our partners in Panchkula, Haryana distributed meals to migrant workers without work and support. So we are now readying ourselves to organize 2.5 million meals as part of our Covid19 response (subject to fund availability, of course).
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Dola Mohapatra, currently serving as the Executive Director of Rise Against Hunger India, has been associated with social sector for over 3 decades and has worked in several parts of the world in both stable and emergency setting. He is passionate about working with local groups to achieve sustainable solutions.