Caritas India unified solidarity response to Coronavirus

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In recent weeks, we have witnessed significant impact of the coronavirus in various sectors. It has not just taken lives of the people but also affected the means of their livelihood to keep themselves alive. It has taken its toll on markets, industries, manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and travel. This, in turn, has affected many people, especially the least paid and self-employed or working in informal sectors or in part-time work with zero-hours contracts. This is the darkest of all times that we are facing. However, as the saying goes, there is a silver lining.

In the darkest of hours, we are witnessing many organisations, governments, institutions, CSRs, CSOs, and individuals coming together and contributing their bit to face this virus. COVID-19 has made many organizations to join hands and work together. The same could be said for Caritas India and her partners. The staff is working day and night towards various collaborations with Government institutions, CSRs and CSOs so that the affected community could be benefited.

Caritas India and her partners have been engaged in responding to the COVID-19 affected communities, especially migrant workers & daily wage laborers who stopped working due to lockdown and are unable to feed their families. The immediate response was provided by our diocesan partners to these families after their identification and listing. Involving various stakeholders has been one of the major priorities while addressing the COVID-19 affected people. These stakeholders involve Government Administrations at block and district level, SHGs, Gram Panchayat, local builders, hospitals, police department, railways, CST, congregation and even transport department. Networking is being initiated at all levels – block, district, state and national. To date, 53 partners have got permission from the government authority to get engaged in action-response in this lockdown period.

Most of the partners are planning to reach out to more people with Food & Hygiene kits specifically among the migrant and most vulnerable sectors of the society. Apart from this, the partners are also planning to start Community Kitchen for the poorest people. There are still people who are not using face masks so the DSSSs are also reaching out to the villages for free distribution of the same. Some DSSSs are still working on the manufacturing of the masks with the help of SHG members & volunteers. Some partners are also in the process of setting up an online help desk to support and mitigate the psychological stress of the people.

The COVID-19 response had started much before the lockdown. Owning to the fact that an informed and activated population is vital to protecting the public’s health, partners had engaged themselves in conducting campaigns, workshops, and demonstrations on different ways to protect oneself from coronavirus. Face masks and hand sanitizers have been distributed and leaflets have been distributed to spread awareness. Public hand wash facilities have been established in various parts of cities as part of blocking the spread of the virus, which is useful for the people who travel. Some partners have also started help desks in the railway stations in Kerala and most of the partners have started mobile helpline services for the needy. So, in short, no stones are left unturned to fight the COVID-19 outbreak by Caritas India and her partners.

Good Practices and Innovative Means Adopted in COVID-19 Response

  • Online & tele helpline services started by some Partners
  • Hoardings put up at public places spreading awareness
  • Distribution of food kits in collaboration with Govt. Departments (Police & Labor departments)
  • Safety protocols adhered to while distributing food and hygiene kits
  • Around 11,000 volunteers trained and engaged in identifying the affected people and distributing food kits
  • Selecting the participants on priority basis
  • Identified the most needy and genuine beneficiaries from the remote places with the support of district administration and prepared list of the beneficiaries and distributed coupons to the people for smooth implementation
  • Isolation Camp equipped with hand hygiene facilities and safe drinking water in Muzaffarpur by MDSSS.
  • Distribution of food and hygiene kits in large numbers while maintaining social distancing with the help of local police. Places have been marked with lime powder to maintain social distancing while distributing the food packets.
  • Door to door distribution of Food Kits
  • Mobilized dry food grains from the community, individuals and developmental institutions
  • Preparation of Sanitizers using locally available products i.e. using mixture of Phenyl, Dettol/Savlon, salt, surgical spirit (locally available) & potassium aluminium sulphate (local name Fitkiri) with water.
  • Timely intervention by partners helped to cater the concerns of the communities and prepared them for the eventualities
  • Provision of essential supplies to the most vulnerable families of older persons, widows and orphans have greatly helped to avert distress due to the lockdown imposed suddenly
  • Networking with the local vendors have made the procurement of products easy
  • Cross learning among staff members working on the field.
  • Due to awareness campaigns and workshops, children themselves have started the task of propagating the prevention information in the families and neighborhoods in North-East region.

Few Case Studies and Testimonies from the Field

Delhi – The Legislative Members of the Kalyanpuri and Jahangirpuri area helped Chetanalaya DSSS in managing work at the local level. SHG leaders helped the community in guiding them towards the food centers. All the SHG leaders were also asked to feed the hungry in the neighborhood of Jahangirpuri slum. The ration was provided to 16 families of the Seemapuri area – mainly ragpickers, and to 30 families in Bawana. 1000 families were provided with food kits in collaboration with Caritas India in areas like Jahangirpuri, Mukundpur, Bhaleswa, Sundernagri, Seemapuri, Savda, Bawana, Shastri Park, etc. Committees were formed to identify families needing food kits like the Annapurna Committee at Seemapuri. There are 8 committees in the areas focusing on different needs such as education, health, shelter, food and so on.

Bihar – MDSSS, Muzaffarpur has covered 3 districts Muzaffarpur, Supaul, and Begusarai for COVID 19 Response. A total of 6300 families were covered through various community awareness and sensitization. 5000 pamphlets were distributed to create awareness, 75 families were supported with the provision of 10 kg rice and 2 kg pulses. Sanitization activity was carried out in 4 wards of Begusarai and Supaul. Community sanitization in 4 villages of Kishanpur area of Supaul covered 850 families. Safe drinking water has been made available for the isolation centre in Sihma middle school in Begusarai. MDSSS has also sanitized 5 wards through task force members. A total of 45 volunteers has been engaged by the partner.

Maharashtra – Jeevan Vikas Sanstha, Amravati had gone to Chitodiya village which comes under Achalpur block, Amravati District. Here there are 48 families who are completely isolated from the rest of the community and nobody dares to approach them and enter their village. When the partner entered this village with food grain packets for the distribution, they were very happy. Mr. Bishwarsingh, the village leader expressed his gratitude and exclaimed that for ten days they could not go out of the house and had a very difficult time because there was nothing to eat. If they were not to get this food grain support, they would have died of hunger, claimed the village leader.

**Assam – **In Guwahati, Community for Development Initiative has started using their tailoring school as a response to COVID-19. The school normally offers skills training to local women and children who are vulnerable to exploitation such as human trafficking. But now it has been turned into a mask-making centre. Twenty-five women have been deployed to stitch around 500 masks/person a day to be distributed throughout the slums of the region. The aim of CDI is to make 50,000 masks.