Effective Strategies by Caritas India to Fight COVID19

The COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis. It is affecting society and econ­omy at its core. While the impact of the pandemic varies from place to place, it is increasing poverty and inequalities at a global scale, making the achievement of SDGs even more urgent. Till now, there is no report of any clinically approved antiviral drugs or vaccines that are effective against COVID-19. It has rapidly spread around the world, posing enormous health, economic, environmental and social challenges to the entire human population. The coronavirus outbreak is severely disrupting the global economy. Almost all the nations are struggling to slow down the transmission of the disease by testing & treating patients, quarantining suspected persons through contact tracing, restricting large gatherings, maintaining complete or partial lockdown etc.

As the fourth phase of nationwide lockdown ended on Sunday, May 31, the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs say that the lockdown is being extended until June 30 only in containment zones. These containment zones will be demarcated by states depending upon the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in an area. Within the context of physical threat, social and physical distancing, as well as public alarm, Caritas India and her partners have played an important role on an individual, social and societal levels, to bring relief – showcasing an exemplary model of the phrase “Service to man is service to God”. Currently, Caritas India through her vast network of 186 partners has reached out to more than 5 million people. Remaining true to its meaning – Joy of Service – Caritas India has only tried to bring joy and hope in the lives of poor and marginalized in various ways.

Adoption of Sustainable Preventive Measures**:** From the initial basic need for food and access to hygiene kits, now the response is transcending to safety and knowledge. The partners have been now able to concretely plan further course of actions and have come to an understanding that COVID19 is here to stay and it is not going away from us any time soon. Therefore, based on the knowledge – attitude and practices of the communities, the partners are initiating the process of integrating innovative ways of developing livelihood programs/activities that could be a scope of employment and engagement for the vulnerable who could use their skills to survive during these tough times. Masks and social distancing are visible almost everywhere. Maintaining hygiene in the villages is also observed. Awareness on adherence to government protocols has been extended to the communities. One of the partners has been encouraging communities with a campaign – Stay Home, Stay Safe in the North East. Partners have also organized a demonstration session on hand wash and the social etiquettes of coughing, sneezing and physical distancing. Continuously, the community members have been given awareness tips through phone calls, social media and voice messages. Few partners have also sanitized their areas in collaboration with the area units. Hand wash, sanitizers, washing bars, detergent and upkeep materials have been given to the community to maintain their hygiene and protect from harmful virus. Till now, more than 2 million masks and more than 400 thousand hygiene kits including sanitizers have been distributed pan-India. Partners are also in frontline to raise awareness through webinars and through other online platforms.

Strategies to Strengthen Health Status: As part of strengthening the health status of the community DSSSs have come up with the concept of promoting organic farming. All the 32 DSSS in Kerala have their own initiatives for the promotion of health status through farm culture. Since monsoon is nearby DSSSs are engaging in monsoon preparedness for the community through DISASTER CLINICS. Through such activities, DSSSs are focusing on reducing the risk of diseases which can probably hit during the monsoon. Partners have been able to procure requirements from health institution within their district and this has enabled them to receive orders on the hygiene index. This has helped the partners explore avenues of manufacturing Hygiene Materials/PPE Kits etc. which can be developed as a MSME entity that would support the livelihood of the poor in the rural and urban areas. Caritas India Partners have been able to attend various safe programming mechanisms and used the same for disseminating information to several other stakeholders in their respective areas. This has enabled them to learn newer techniques that could improvise the systems of action that would support the fight against the virus. Some partners are extending support in maintaining hygiene and running the quarantine centers, by providing cooked food on a daily basis. In some villages in the North East, some of the active youth have started constructing quarantine centers in their areas. The partners are also assisting the Health Dept. in reaching out the affected people by giving them access to Ambulances. Partners are also trying to support sick patients (other than Covid-19) to access health facilities in hospitals. Personal and community health system get strengthened by the awareness and other interventions of both Government and Non-Government Organizations. In Tamil Nadu, the Siddha medicine such as kabasura kudineer (A decoction made from different herbs) and nilavembu kazhayam (herbal drink) is being consumed by the people in their homes which boosts up the immune system to protect them from various diseases. Covid 19, on the whole, has revived the individual and community health practices which had been practiced before and a new healthy dietary practice in each and every households.

Networking and Partnership: At the DSSS level, different commissions have come together to serve the people. Likewise, networking and partnership between organizations and people’s federations at block, district, regional and state level has helped to comprehend the needs of people and to reach out the neediest target people with concerted action. Most of the partners had already established a chain of network in the state for effective and greater impact of their initiatives. However, the current situation has strengthened the established networks with different stakeholders, especially health and disaster management cells in the government. While reaching out to the villages, PRIs are being taken into confidence in terms of finalizing the beneficiary list and storage of relief materials. Partners are reaching out to the public and private sectors to avail monetary assistance for relief operations. Some of the partners like JHDS in Jowai and DSSS in Imphal have been designated as Nodal Agency in the district to support the District Administration. Caritas India and her partners had also been part of various virtual meetings with different Depts, including Inter Agency Groups (IAG). Rapport building and dialogue with the duty-bearers and CSRs, during the pandemic, have brought us all closer as one human family irrespective of multitude of differences.

Community Support to deal with the Lockdown: Community support to the neediest persons is tremendous in this critical phase of life. Since the initial days of lock down DSSSs partners have been very focused on attending to the needs of migrants. More than 500 thousand migrants have been supported by Caritas India across India. Some DSSSs have initiated competition for children those who are stressed. PWD, Old and Elderly, transgenders, HIV positive people, cancer patients, widows, tribal and dalit people, and gypsies, have been supported by dry ration, cooked food, hygiene kits and psychosocial aid. Toll free numbers have been shared with the community to support those in distress in different parts of India. The helpline has been initiated in many languages by various partners such as English, Hindi, Nagamese, Assamese, Karbi, Bodo, Malayalam etc. With some relaxations by the State Governments, some of the partners are reaching out to the people in promoting kitchen gardens to ensure food security. These kitchen gardens are being promoted with indigenous seeds to maintain the nutritive values. Partners have been working hand in hand with the district administration in promoting the culture of using mask for the common people. They have installed stalls which provide bunches of information to the community. With the assistance of the SHG’s, DSSSs have stitched thousands of masks and distributed to the poor people.

As lock down continues, we are crossing through a bit tough situation because of the hike in Covid-19 positive cases, but at the same time, NGOs, CBOs and likeminded individuals have become the foundation of hope for many, especially the daily laborers, migrant workers, students, differently abled. The list is endless. Everyone has their own stories of anguish. Many such untold stories and miseries might not even see any mention in the history of humankind, when COVID-19 pandemic would be talked about. Hearing some of the stories, one would realize that the bigger threat of this pandemic is not the virus. It is the fear of starvation.

Covid 19 has created drastic changes in the socioeconomic conditions of the target people. Umpteen number of target people who depend on informal sectors like agriculture, agricultural wage earning, construction and allied activities, auto-rickshaw drivers and others lost their daily sustenance considerably and the successive lockdowns imposed by the central and state Governments of India put their very economy at stake. In this critical juncture, the all-round efforts of the Governments, Non-Government Organizations, Community based organizations and other well-wishers enable the marginalized to resurrect from the socioeconomic mires created by Covid 19. Partners are now giving more focus on the sustainability of the people around. The initiation for promotion of organic farming as well as the other types of farming clearly picturizes how Caritas India and her partners have been giving importance to the communities, especially to poor communities.