International worker explains “multi-dimensional” COVID threat in India

Children Believe is providing food rations and cash vouchers to help vulnerable families struggling to make enough income to feed their families through the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Children Believe

Find out how life is on the ground for India’s most vulnerable

By Nancy Anabel, Country Director
for Children Believe in India

The lockdowns, as well as economic and social crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, is exacerbating inequities and exclusion in my homeland of India. And, with 6.8-million cases total (among the most in the world), the months and years ahead won’t be easy.

As the country director in India for Children Believe — a global non-profit child-centred humanitarian organization — I’ve seen how the pandemic is affecting the underprivileged and vulnerable, particularly daily-wage earners, migrant workers and the poorest, most marginalized.

The threat is multi-dimensional.

As Children Believe’s country director in India, Nancy Anabel leads and manages the child-centred organization’s strategic growth and direction, program development, international and domestic partnerships as well as day-to-day operations.

Self-isolation has hit hard, impacting nutrition, livelihood, safety, mental health and children’s learning opportunities. The most vulnerable are pregnant women, new mothers and, of course, children (including those with special needs).

In fact, our local partners recently rescued an estimated 40 child labourers and 34 children from the risk of child marriages. This risk persists for many as parents search for what they feel is the best way to keep their children fed and occupied.

Given that we’re providing relief and response, our team has government permission to keep in contact with families we help. It’s how I heard from Santhiya, a 13-year-old, who said, “I feel lazy due to inadequate food, and there’s no money at home due to job loss among my parents. It gives me mental anguish.”

A 25-year-old mother-of-two who’s expecting her third child — and wished to remain anonymous — revealed how difficult it is to provide even two meals a day for her family.

Indeed, Santhiya and this mom are not alone. UNICEF reports 368.5-million children across 143 countries have had to find other sources of nutrition after losing access to school meals. In the areas we work in India, there is still no news as to when schools will resume.

So, I’ve been encouraged to see how children and youth in the communities we help have been stepping up to provide support.

Youth groups, formed by Children Believe, connected with our program staff to safely deliver dry rations, food baskets and soap to more than 2,300 families. This was possible thanks to nearly $6,000 in donations from local political leaders, police and other well-wishers.

It’s encouraging to see how our program work is building resilient and engaged youth eager to make a difference and complement the support our donors make possible.

I’m happy to report Children Believe has been providing help through lifesaving education, personal-protective equipment, food rations and cash vouchers, child protection, psycho-social support and education supplies. And, although the number of new COVID-19 cases is slowly dropping, we’re still facing an uphill battle. The good news is many of the people we help are committed to building a brighter future — and we’re committed to helping them.

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