In the middle of 2021, more than a year after its initial outbreak, COVID-19 second wave has jolted the country and is leaving a huge dent in different aspects of life. It again brought the country to a standstill, and its direct impact on the livelihood and health of human beings is severe. The pandemic disproportionately affected the marginalised masses with social vulnerabilities and has forced the sustenance of several rural families into a dire strait of means and resources. The situation is worsening each passing day as a greater chunk of the marginalised communities are out of jobs.

Lack of awareness and infrastructure
The lack of health facilities, ignorance, and improper knowledge of health and hygiene leaves the socio-economically disentangled families unshielded. With a degree of vaccine hesitancy, misconceptions regarding side-effects and lack of proper infrastructure make it a difficult process of delivering as well as convincing the people in rural areas to get immunised, which is hampering the community’s health.

The mid-day meal program, which served as the primary source of supplementary nutrition for millions of school-going children in India suffered, had to be put on hold as schools were closed and states have imposed restrictions on the larger gatherings. Serving hot cooked food under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) at the village level and in urban slums has been discontinued and the dry ration was distributed has restricted the dietary intake of children and carrying mothers has worsened both the incidence and magnitude of the acute under-nutrition among children and women in the country.

The population in rural and urban India comprising of wager wage earners, small and marginal farmers, domestic helpers, sanitation workers, street vendors and rickshaw pullers, who barely manage to earn a one-time bread for their families. Thereby, surviving the loss of jobs, and purchasing materials for COVID-19 precautions impose an additional burden on their stomachs.

IGSSS’ Response
While the nationwide unlock is gradually rolling out, with the decreasing curve of the second wave of COVID-19, IGSSS has started COVID relief work in 13 states and 2 union territories in the country. Awareness campaigns have been started, promoting COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination among the vulnerable sections by displaying banners, posters wall writing, distribution of pamphlets and organising sessions meeting in small groups. Our volunteers are also providing support in vaccine registrations. Families are being assisted with hygiene kits, each including soaps, sanitary napkin packets, masks, and sanitisers. IGSSS volunteers are setting up mobile awareness campaigns with district and block administration by using a public address system to disseminate information related to COVID appropriate behaviour and WASH.

IGSSS has also provided ration kits to SAM and MAM children families, pregnant and lactating mothers migrant workers, ultra-poor, destitute families, and widows in 13 states of India. Many of our initiatives have supported farmers. 4000 farmers were distributed with paddy, maize, green gram, and black gram and 6060 families were provided with vegetable seeds. Under our ‘Cash for Work’ initiative, activities like the construction of ponds, village roads, and field bunds have been done from which 11000 man-days have been generated which has ensured 2 months food availability for the marginal, landless daily labourers and by thus checked the outward migration.

Contributed by: K.C. Sahu