An update on YUVA’s COVID-19 emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts
We have entered a third lockdown cycle today! India’s COVID-19 count has now crossed 40,000 and near 13,000 cases are in Maharashtra alone! With 1,000+ new cases reported within 24 hours on 1 May, the state is continuing to see a spike in the pandemic spread.
We have now completed six weeks of emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts. To catch up on what we have been able to do so far, please check our previous blog: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. This blog presents a summary of our efforts in the past week.
- We’ve now reached 14,337 households (71,685 people) across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) with rations.
- In partnership with Blue Sea Catering and Banquets we have been able to provide 7 lakh+ cooked meals to the Mumbai Police, staff in government hospitals, migrant workers and their families in Navi Mumbai, Wadala, and at Bhiwandi (Thane).
- Over the past few weeks, we have been able to support many vulnerable households in Nallasopara (an area within the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation) through the efforts of activist Mecanzy Dabre and 18 local youth volunteers who have driven relief distribution. ‘Nallasopara is one of India’s fastest growing areas. About 10 lakh people live here. Yet, no government records exist for most of the vulnerable people. They do not have ration cards and with most of them engaged in small jobs for a living, COVID-19 has really dealt a hard blow’, said Dabre. The team has been crosschecking each request for help coming to them to focus on reaching the most needy people first. They are also invested in not just supporting the local population via provision of food grains, but also in trying to address their other critical needs at this time. For example, in one case a family reached out to comprised of a pregnant woman on the verge of delivery who needed to be transferred to another hospital given her serious condition. The team helped the family arrange this, in addition to the support via ration, and the mother and newborn are currently in good health. In another case, the team not only helped a cancer patient access ration provisions, but also helped her keep up two more doctor visits within the lockdown period.
In another case, 305 migrant workers at a large under-construction project in Naigaon (another area within the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation) were left stranded with no wages and no food, given the sudden lockdown. Being migrant workers employed contractually, none of them are registered under the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Board or have ration cards. They live and work on the site. When they reached out with an appeal for help, Dabre and team were able to reach out to the builder and engage on the need for worker relief. The builder has since paid the workers and even set up a daily community kitchen for them which is operational to this day.
- This week we reached out to many households in need in Ambernath and Titwala in Thane district. Many of the members of these households making a living by singing in local trains, begging, doing small jobs in the construction industry, as waste-sorters, tailors and so on. Many households do not even have a gas connection, making do with basic stoves for cooking. These areas are located in the interiors, and it is difficult to reach them. None of them have received any government support so far, and with many being migrant workers they do not have ration cards either. We were only able to help some identified families, but there are many more in need.
- This week we also partnered with Kotak Education Foundation, delivering 860 relief packages to their partner school, Milind Vidyalaya, in Powai. The school has been distributing these packages among student families in need.
- So far we’ve received 887 calls from groups of migrant workers, stuck in various parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. We have been able to address 193 calls so far, either directly or by referring them to partner networks. It remains challenging to continue this work, given the dispersed nature of requests, and other civil society and government partners have been struggling as well. However, we are committed to doing as much as possible at this time.
- Our teams in other cities are also furthering local relief efforts, often by supporting other local partners. In Nashik and Akola, the YUVA team and members of youth collective Anubhav Shiksha Kendra have been distributing ration and food to vulnerable families in different areas. They are trying to reach most vulnerable families first — widows, the disabled, nomadic destitute families, etc.
- In collaboration with the faculty and students of IIT Bombay, we have taken up GIS mapping of outreached areas across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region so that we can spatially present the relief work so far. This initiative is being done with other civil-society organisations such as Apnalaya and Save the Children India.
Access to ration remains challenging
Our previous blog highlighted how access to ration continues to remain a challenge for the people. In many cases, across areas, ration shops are only able to give rice or wheat, making it very difficult for households to eat wholesome foods at this time. The situation has not changed much since then, and people are continuing to find it difficult to access basic food items needed at this time. We believe, the universalisation of the Public Distribution System is a must to reach all people at this time. This week the Mumbai Mirror also covered this issue.
A webinar that brought us together on International Labour (Workers) Day
At YUVA, we have always observed 1 May through events with workers — celebrating and recognising their valuable contributions, and resolving to keep demanding for their adequate welfare, dignity and rights. Given the current situation, we organised a webinar (our first!) bringing together a range of panelists (including informal workers) to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic situation and its impact on informal work in India, the various responses and strategies led by governments and civil-society organisations, and some potential approaches for the road ahead. The session was well-attended, and can be accessed on our YouTube channel.
A call for your continued support
To continue with our relief efforts, we need more donations. What we have collected so far has almost been spent entirely on the initiatives outlined above. Please do consider renewing your commitment towards people in need at this time, by contributing and also by sharing this message with your networks.
We couldn’t have done this without you — Thank you!
Our continuing emergency relief and associated efforts have been made possible with the support of multiple partners, well-wishers, networks, organisations, administrative authorities and countless others. We would like to thank each one of them, and all our volunteers supporting every phase of the relief work, from supply management to distribution and more! It is with all your support that we can do so much.