Like most countries, daily life in India has also been disrupted due to this worldwide pandemic. On strict lockdown since 24 March, CBM in India has had to think on its feet and adapt to the ever-evolving situation, in order to be able to reach people with disabilities and their families.
Inclusive humanitarian response for migrants
One 24 March, when the Indian government announced a 21-day lockdown for its 1.3 billion citizens, it triggered a huge humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands of workers returning to their villages across India, on foot, after public transport was stopped. This included people with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and children walking hundreds of kilometres. Over 80% of India’s workers are in the informal sector and do not get salaries, and the lockdown resulted in loss of livelihoods and ability to pay rents and buy food.
CBM India and its partners responded immediately, by providing aid for people with disabilities, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The response includes dry rations, cooked food, water, sanitation kits and personal protective equipment for health institutions. This essential humanitarian work has continued the past few weeks. CBM and its partners continue providing relief and ration to returning migrants and their families. We are also distributing accessible information material on COVID 19 and ways to stay safe.
Working collaboratively with local, state and national government and health agencies
In India, CBM along with our partners and other Organisations for People with Disabilities (DPOs) are working in collaboration with local, state and national government and health services. We are providing public health messages and information on COVID 19, that is available in an accessible format for blind and deaf people, as well as in English and local Indian languages. We are also advocating with state governments to ensure helplines are available for persons with disabilities along with other facilities during this isolation/ quarantine period. So far, we have reached thousands of households with persons with disabilities and provided access to government benefits such as ration, and pension. Our partner medical colleges are working with the Indian Government on an inclusive humanitarian response to COVID-19. Many CBM-funded hospitals have been converted into COVID wards to be able to test and treat patients. These hospitals have been equipped with intensive care beds, as well as urgent personal protective equipment (PPE).
Distribution of essential relief and hygiene material
With the help of our partners all over the country, CBM is providing dry ration to families of persons with disabilities, hygiene kits (including surgical masks, soaps and disinfectants, liquid handwash, cloth towels etc), and cooked food. CBM is partnering with local community kitchens to provide hot meals to thousands of poor and needy people, including daily labourers and migrant workers who have lost their wages due to the pandemic. We are also helping our local partners to install drinking water tanks in their communities, so that the people have access to safe drinking water.
Support via technology
Online counselling on prevention and treatment of the Coronavirus is being offered to persons with disabilities and their families. Partner DPOs are also being trained on how to provide counselling and support during these unsettling times. Psychologists are also providing online therapy to persons undergoing depression and anxiety during the isolation period.
We are able to reach large numbers through Whatsapp as well – here we share many important updates and pieces of information such as government schemes, updates on outbreak, prevention measures, information regarding distribution of free or subsidized rations, subsidies for pensioners with disabilities and women with disabilities, availability of advance funds and so on.
Additionally, we are providing online conferences to parents on how to engage their children with intellectual disorders and autism.