Our Pandemic Relief Update
July 6, 2020
We have now stopped distributing cooked food packets. However, we are continuing to distribute water and grocery kits. As on 8th June, 2020 we have distributed 2800 cans of drinking water (each can is of 20 litres), 75,000 cooked meals (that is, 32,500 packtes with quantity for 2 persons), 210 grocery kits (this feeds 1050 persons for 25 days which would mean another 26,250 uncooked meals) (additional 43,750 uncooked meals shall be given from 15th June onwards).
The total amount we spent on the above items from 24th of March till 8th of June, is as follows:
- Cooked meals …………………………………..Rs. 13,00,000/-
- Grocery Kits ………………………………………Rs. 2,31,000/-
- RO purified drinking water …………………Rs. 50,000/-
- PPEs (soaps, masks, sanitizers)……………Rs. 79,500/-
- Miscellaneous…………………………………….Rs. 7,000/-
Yet to be given 1750 more Groceries kits
to 350 families @ Rs. 1,057/- per family
to be used for 25 days
(shall be distributed on 15th June, 2020) Rs. 3,70,000/-
TOTAL COVID relief expenditure Rs. 20,36,500/-
- Total paid for by Mother Foundation-US
& SevaChildren Norway Rs. 7,78,000/-
- Raised locally in Bangalore: Rs. 2,20,000/-
- Contributions by SOTE Rs. 11,20,000/-
TOTAL RECEIPTS Rs. 21,18,000/-
Even though lockdown is still there, and is expected to be reviewed on the 30th of June, most of the restrictions have been lifted in other than corona containment zones. People are able to join work, but due to still lack of sufficient public transport facilities, social distancing norms, and also due to the great fear of people getting infected, there are not many who are joining work. In the villages, many persons have registered for work under NREGA’s 100 days’ employment guarantee scheme. The only work available under this scheme is the manual labour such as removing mud, digging, etc. Farmers who are mostly small tenant farmers or with very small land holdings, are still not able to carry on their farming operations fully, as due to social distancing, they are not able to engage more labourers. Further, most of the farmers have incurred heavy losses as they couldn’t sell their earlier crops. There are still lot of villagers who continue to be without any money to buy food and other essentials. There is still lot of distress, people going through in the villages. There were many villagers (migrants) who were working elsewhere in the State as well as in other States, and they have now come back to their villages. But their problem here in our villages, is not as severe such as those we seem them portrayed and facing in North India such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. But they still need some food support, even though the problem now is not as severe as earlier. They are now no longer on the verge of death due to hunger or starvation.
In the 15 interior villages where we work in Tamilnadu, due to our timely interventions, we have been able to avert the disasters which people in other nearby villages have faced. To this date, there have been no casualties in any of these 15 villages, even though thousands of people lost their livelihoods and they had no money to buy food and other essentials. With timely support from Mother Foundation-US and from SevaChildren Norway, and from our other supporters, we could provide as many as 75,000 cooked meals, 26,250 uncooked meals by way of groceries (another additional 43,750 uncooked meals shall be given from 15th June onwards), 2800 purified water cans (25 litrs each), and a huge quantity of soaps, sanitizers and masks. This ensured not only that, not a single person lost life due to extreme hunger and starvation, but also ensured that effective steps were taken to prevent the Corona infections. At the beginning of the pandemic, through our Staff and frontline field workers, we conducted lots of awareness programs on preventive measures such as sanitation, wearing masks and social distancing.
In the first phase of the lockdown, we provided food to all those who were unable to have it in their homes. In the second and third phase of the lockdown, as the numbers kept growing, and as our funds were getting depleted, we restricted giving food only to the most vulnerable, viz. those without ration cards for availing groceries from Government, the migrants who returned to their homes from distant places, the disadvantaged elderly, the sick and the disabled. In the fourth phase which started from 16th of May, many of the villagers were able to resume their work and earn some money for their badly needed basic family needs. So we too started gradually reducing the number of food packets supplied. However the hardships and sufferings of the poor are not over. There are numerous persons from these villages who had gone to other parts of the State or to other States in search of employment. They have lost now their jobs and have come home and are dependent for their living on the fast depleting savings of their families.
Presently, we have shifted the focus of our work. From providing immediate food relief, we have now shifted the focus on helping the poor villagers to overcome several other problems they face such as loss of livelihoods, distress of tenant / marginal farmers, increase in the gender based domestic violence, malnutrition faced by children deprived as they are of their free mid-day meals in Schools, prevention of possible school drop-outs of children due to long closures of schools, etc.
We have provided interest free loans to all our front line field workers who too are from these villages and they too are very poor. Many poor, including the farmers who are sharecroppers and tenant farmers are unable to get loan as they have no securities to provide, no documentation, no land rights, etc. We are trying to find some ways of helping them with some credit. We have been able to succeed in motivating a Finance Company to start their branch in Kamandoddi village and give loans with affordable rates of interest and with very little documentation to these poor people. To some very poor families we have been able to provide some goats and some native chicken to other families to secure their livelihoods. And to all the families of children who are in our Child Sponsorship scheme, we have provided during this Corona Pandemic, a “one time financial support” too.
During the last three years, we have taken several initiatives for an integrated development of our village communities. These have been the most useful at these times of pandemic, as these have prepared the communities to better face such tragedies. Initiatives such as the Awareness Programs, the Adult literacy classes, particularly digital literacy, have been of great help to these poor women. The other one is the Kitchen gardens which even though small ones, provides them food when they couldn’t get it elsewhere due to lockdowns. Still another initiative that has helped a lot at these times, is the availability of purified drinking water through RO plants we have set up, and the drinking water borewells we have repaired. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to clean water to maintain basic hygiene has emerged as the biggest challenge in different parts of the world. To prevent infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends hands washing as the easiest and best way to prevent transmission of the virus, in addition to social distancing. And the pandemic experts advise us to wash hands with soap or liquid hand wash for at least 20-30 seconds each time we touch a surface, a door handle, go out to get groceries, medicines, vegetables; each time we do almost anything. That means each person needs to use at least two litres of water per wash. With a minimum of 20 washes a day, a family of five members would need 100-200 litres of water per day, only to wash hands, and that accounts for a 25 per cent increase in water demand. To follow this WHO advice, would result in immense pressure in already overstretched water availability in these villages. Further, they don’t have tap water inside their houses. Tap water at home, is a luxury and still a long dream in our 15 villages. They fetch water from the public taps some distance away from their houses. And water at these taps is released just for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening during which time people have to get it. In this situation, regular hand wash with use of soaps continue to be a luxury for most of the poor in these villages. Over the years, we have conducted several WASH awareness programs and repaired some existing borewells gone under repair, drilled new borewells, provided overhead water tanks, constructed water reservoir, etc. And as the water available through the public taps and in the borewells is not pure, we have also been able to set up RO water purification plants. In this pandemic, all these initiatives have been the most useful.
On behalf of all the poor people in these our 15 villages who immensely benefitted and who were saved from the verge of death due to hunger and starvation, and prevented from their being infected by Corona virus through best sanitation practices, we thank Mother Foundation-US for making it possible with your loving support for this our work.
Dr. J. L. Fernandes
08th June, 2020