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Fighting COVID-19 on a war footing

Fighting COVID-19 on a war footing

Solidaridad reached out to vulnerable communities in the crisis with relief materials and personal protective kits across different parts of rural Asia

Published on July 11, 2021 at 8:33 am

Safe vegetable home delivery initiative in Bangladesh.

COVID-19 has caused the world a havoc. As countries battled its spread, baffled by the mammoth unpredictable nature of the pandemic—people died in droves worldwide. In Asia, the count of victims went off the roof, as the poor and the vulnerable standing at the front lines faced the most brutal brunt of the onslaught. Misery and deprivation only got magnified under the lens of the fatal coronavirus pandemic.

In rural parts of Asia, with little access to basic livelihood requisites during the prolonged months of lockdown, smallholders and daily-wage workers grappled with the double crisis of income and health uncertainty. Living hand to mouth, these vulnerable communities had neither the access to adequate protective gear nor the luxury of maintaining social distancing.

Many healthcare and community volunteers also fell prey to the deadly virus. Shortage of personal protective equipment proved disastrous for the frontline workers, as the number of healthcare personnel testing positive for COVID-19 kept increasing across Asia.

Relief Efforts
Recognising the pressing crisis at hand, Solidaridad engaged in various relief and awareness mechanisms through 2020-2021 to abate the spread of COVID-19 in rural communities. Working closely with partners and local authorities, Solidaridad extended support to landless farmers, workers and vulnerable communities with basic livelihood requisites such as the supply of dry ration kits. It also provided personal protective equipment and preventive care provisions such as masks, gloves, soaps and sanitisers to several community workers and healthcare volunteers across different parts of rural Asia.

Distribution of sanitisers and masks among tea garden workers in Assam, India.

India
Relief efforts in India were organised with support from the local administrations, following the Ministry of Home Affairs’ directives. Approximately 1,150 litre of sanitiser and more than 55,000 units of personal protective gear were distributed among healthcare officers and voluntary community workers across multiple districts in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Dry ration kits with basic sustenance and hygiene essentials such as rice, salt, sugar, flour, cooking oil, pulses, spices, soaps and bedsheets were distributed among the poor families and vulnerable communities in these regions.

Efforts included:
• 40,000 units of personal protective equipment were distributed among healthcare workers in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh
• Over 20,000 small tea growers in Assam received COVID-19 awareness training with assistance from All Bodoland Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA)
• Over 13,000 farmers in Karnataka received about 2,636 litres of sanitisers
• About 10,000 farmers and daily wage workers received relief materials, including sanitisers, soaps and masks, in Assam (with active assistance from TRINITEA partners, ABSTGA and Indian Tea Association-ITA)
• 10,000 kg of liquid chlorine was supplied for distribution across different panchayats (local village authorities) in Andhra Pradesh
• Around 3,000 smallholder farming families received relief materials under TRINITEA programme in Assam
• Over 2,500 migrant workers in Maharashtra were supported with family-sized dry ration kits
• 1,000 grocery kits were distributed among daily wage workers in Uttar Pradesh
• 400 tanners in West Bengal received Covid insurance

The areas covered so far include Elluru and three mandals (sub-districts) i.e. Chintalapudi, Kamavarapukota and Dwarika Tirumala of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh; Sonkatch block of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh; Nainwa block of Bundi district in Rajasthan; Kanpur and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh; Nagpur and Yavatmal in Maharashtra; Tinsukia and Udalguri in Assam; Jagatsinghpur and Puri in Odisha; Kolkata in West Bengal and Belgaum, Munoli, Kolavi, Athani in Karnataka.

Distribution of sanitisers and masks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, Solidaridad, along with its partners, Institute of Social Development (ISD) and Nucleus Foundation (NF), provided basic safety and hygiene supplies to the local communities in the Matale and Nuwara Eliya districts and Badulla and Monaragala districts of Central and Uva provinces respectively.

Efforts included:
• 80,000 face masks, 60,000 units of bar soap, 5,000 kg of bleaching powder, 1,490 litres of hand sanitiser, and 4,000 litres of disinfectants distributed among tea workers, estates, and local service providers
• 10,700 families of estate workers reached with distributions

Home delivery service of agricultural inputs, maintaining health and safety in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, within the purview of its Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) programme, Solidaridad supported farming communities and volunteers with relief initiatives and worked towards creating awareness about maintaining hygiene and social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, working in close coordination with the government and private stakeholders.

Efforts included:
• 4,800 farming households received sustenance support through food packages
• 2,300 households received rice seeds and fertilisers
• 1,07,957 members from farming communities received protective materials (face mask, hand sanitisers) and were made aware of COVID-19 safety measures
• Personal protective equipment distributed among field workers, traders and farming households
• Handwashing facilities established in all SaFaL business centres, collection centres, service centres and village supermarkets (VSMs)
• Home-delivery, mobile van and phone-call-based supply of inputs were initiated to keep the supply chain active

Distribution of prevention kits among farmers in Indonesia.

Indonesia
In Indonesia, as a part of its programme, “Enhancing Palm Oil Smallholders to Improve Sustainable Palm Oil Production” in Way Kanan, Lampung Province, Solidaridad launched a support action to keep the farmers safe and healthy.

Efforts included:
• 3,000 smallholders and their families received door-to-door delivery of prevention kits (donated by BASF and Estee Lauder) containing masks and sanitisers
• Personal protective equipment distributed among farmers at every meeting by Solidaridad field trainers
• On-site and virtual mentoring of farmers in West Kalimantan

Support and encouragement
Solidaridad’s field staff worked relentlessly in carrying out COVID-19 response activities. There was a spirit of mutual support and appreciation prevailing throughout between Solidaridad and partners, including government actors.

Mr. Tatheer Zaidi, Regional Programme Head, Solidaridad Asia, said, “In Uttar Pradesh, the District Magistrates of both Kanpur and Unnao have appreciated our efforts along with the Principal of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GVSM) Medical College, Kanpur. The industry associations (UPLIA, STA, LIWA) have also highly acclaimed Solidaridad’s efforts.”

Farmers and community workers expressed their gratitude towards Solidaridad for supporting them during the crisis.

“Distribution of masks and sanitisers by TRINITEA has been very useful since we couldn’t go to the markets. We, on behalf of our community, thank Solidaridad immensely,” said one of the small tea growers from Tinsukia district in Assam, India.

Creating impact digitally
The norms of social distancing required field personnel from Solidaridad to devise new methods to guide farmers and address their concerns. Since lockdown guidelines restricted experts from physically meeting the farmers, online video interactions were organised to assist them. For instance, within the purview of the TRINITEA programme, training sessions were organised in Jorhat, Assam. In these sessions, the small tea growers were guided according to their specific doubts and were also advised about best practices for their farm.

Solidaridad leather team also organised webinars during 2020-2021, wherein several industry representatives participated from Kanpur and Kolkata regions. Esteemed representatives from the Namami Gange project and the Central Pollution Control Board of India also took part in some of the webinars.

In addition, Solidaridad developed and disseminated videos and reading materials (pamphlets) on COVID-19 prevention and safety measures for farmers and workers in multiple vernaculars across its different programmes such as SaFaL, Code for Responsible Extraction (CORE), leather, cotton, palm, soybean and others.

Rising to the need of the hour
The coronavirus crisis is not over yet. As the developed world is riding on a war-footing vaccination drive, developing countries like India are still struggling to get even 50 per cent of the population vaccinated. It is thus critical to shield the rural regions from the virulent spread, especially amidst the resurgence of newer strains of the virus. Protecting the poor and vulnerable communities is the need of the hour. Through its different programmes and on-field staff and volunteers, Solidaridad will keep up the support in rural areas and continue to pursue persistent communication towards creating awareness and spreading positivity during these trying times.

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