It is June 2021, and COVID-19 has been with us for about 1 year and 5 months now. As sea waves diminish while touching the shore, the second wave comes much stronger. Similarly, the second wave of COVID-19 came back stronger, impacting lakhs of people worldwide. The lockdown had a severe negative impact on the lives of the small vendors, daily wage earners, migrant workers, contract labourers, unorganized sector workers, etc. It robbed them of their earnings and savings.

IGSSS in North-East India is extending a helping hand to these sections of people and supporting the families with humanitarian aid. From identification of right beneficiaries to collaborating with district administration to the distribution of relief items adhered to COVID appropriate behaviour was on top. Till 24th June 2021, IGSSS in North- East can support 6,258 families with dry ration, cash support, hygiene kits and PPE materials in a total of 115 villages and 10 slums in Lakhimpur, Barpeta, Dhubri and Guwahati in Assam and Ukhrul and Churachandpur in Manipur.  These responses were made with the support of HDFC Bank, MISEREOR, Secours Catholique and CARITAS-Germany. The enthusiastic and determined staff of IGSSS in North-East is planning to extend support to over 4,000 more families in the coming period in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Karbi-Anglong, Guwahati and BTR region of Assam.

The bigger question before the emergency response was the identification of most marginalized families out of a huge population. Criteria were set for identification of the most affected daily wage earners, pregnant women, PWD, families having SAM children, domestic workers, and small vendors. The process of identification of the beneficiaries was made through Village Headmen, AWW, ASHA workers, Community Resource Persons and Village Development Committees and cross-checked at various levels by IGSSS staff.  The support was accordingly made to the families meeting the criteria.

Another concern for the team was effective and COVID appropriate behaviour at the relief distribution site. Effective coordination was made from the field team with the District Administration for the permission of relief distribution during the lockdown days. The district administration permitted vehicles despite the restrictions on mobility and allocated timelines for distributing the relief materials with a necessary submission of distribution report post-distribution.

IGSSS is always trying to bring innovation in immediate emergency response and preventive actions. So, the staff has been using digital mechanisms to reduce the risk of exposure to infection by using digital apps in the procurement of relief materials, selection, and registration of target households, handing over of relief materials and stock keeping. For awareness and vaccination registration short video clips were made in different languages and shared in Whatapps groups and other social media. Live video conferences were arranged between community and medical doctors to get direct information on COVID-19 and vaccinations. Counsellors are arranged for Psycho-social support where communities and staffs are accessing counselling services. In all the efforts to support the COVID-19 affected communities, IGSSS is putting the best efforts to provide as much relief as possible to the most vulnerable and marginalised communities.

Contributed by: Netaji Basumatary