- NGO Adharshila’s relief efforts focus on daily wagers, poor children, women
- The NGO has been distributing food and raising awareness about COVID-19
- It also aims to develop skills of slumdwellers to help them increase income
New Delhi: Ruksa Ben a 32-year-old vegetable seller living in a slum in Tughlakabad, in the South Delhi was on the verge of hopelessness after the lockdown was imposed in the country, to control the coronavirus outbreak. She had to stop selling vegetables as the mobility of her cart would be restricted during the lockdown. Ruksa had no savings or support to fall back on during this difficult time. Being a widow and the sole breadwinner of her family of three children and her elderly mother, Ruksa had no means of buying essentials like foodgrains. She did not have a ration card and was unable to apply for the electronic coupon, she was not able to access the free ration being distributed by the government. Inspite of Delhi government providing cooked meals at various spots, food was still inaccessible to her family because of the lack of information about the nearest distribution centre. She says, “My family was facing extreme poverty and we had sleep on empty stomach for a few nights. If the good people from Adharshila had not visited here, I may not have survived. It feels like they were sent by God.”
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In order to help families like Ruksa’s who have been battling the economic challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, Adharshila, a non-governmental organisation established in 2004 in Delhi came forward with relief drives soon after the nationwide lockdown was executed. According to Neena Jolly, Trustee of Adharshila, the organisation has reached out to more than 3,500 people living in the slum areas with cooked meals, ration kits including foodgrains, lentils and cooking essentials, plus hygiene kits that include sanitisers, masks, handwash and sanitary napkins.
She further said that after the lockdown was imposed, the organisation reached out such communities that were difficult to reach and were not covered under any welfare schemes of the Delhi government or central government. While sharing the distress being faced by a community living in the slums on the bank of Yamuna River, Ms. Jolly said,
We came across a community of about 614 families in Chilla Yamuna Khadar that comprises 17 hamlets on the bank of the river Yamuna near Mayur Vihar in Delhi. The plight of the people living in this area is unimaginable. These people are difficult to reach because they live very close to the bank of Yamuna and most of their hamlet is in water. They live in a very unhealthy condition. There are obviously no housing settlements in this area. They are deprived of basic facilities like drinking water, electricity, roads and LPG gas cylinders. They practice open defecation since there is not even a single community toilet in the area. So basically, they need anything and everything required for living a healthy life.
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Ms. Jolly said that the roads connecting to this area are muddy, houses are made of clay and hay and the food is cooked on earthen stoves. Families living in Chilla Yamuna Khadar are migrant daily wage workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal and have been mostly earning their livelihood through fishing and farming for a few years now. With the emergence of COVID-19, their lives became even harder, she said, adding,
The saddest part was that children and adolescent girls did not have clothes to cover themselves. There were teenage girls roaming around nude. Who would allow their daughters to roam without clothes if they weren’t living in extreme poverty? We started working in this area. Along with cooked meals and dry ration, we also provided them with clothes, soaps and sanitary napkins. We have been conducting awareness drives among them continuously on hygiene, sanitation, health and nutrition.
Ms. Jolly further added that the organisation has been working on promoting hygiene among the people living slums. She said that apart from explaining the importance of washing hands and keeping the surrounding clean. They also talk about menstrual hygiene management and health with women and adolescent girls. The organisation is also making the families living in slums aware about COVID-19 and the way to protect themselves from catching the virus. She said,
People living in slums are more vulnerable during a pandemic because the families in these areas live in a compact space. Since they also lack access to basic facilities like cooking gas, clean drinking water, toilets and proper sewage system, they are more susceptible to pulmonary and stomach related diseases related to sanitation and indoor air pollution.
Rani Devi, a resident of Chilla Yamuna Khadar and a mother of two children said to NDTV that she and her husband could not sell fish since the lockdown. With no income, they have no option but to rely on the support received from donations. She said,
When we tried to sell fish during the lockdown, the policemen did not allow us and even beat us badly. We did not have any place to go back to because our family is no longer living in our native village in Jharkhand. No government official has visited this place till now and we have not received any ration or financial help from the government. We are thankful to the NGO because they seem to care about us.
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Along with providing food, masks and hygiene material to the poor and the needy, the organisation, with The Hans Foundation support, has also facilitated door-step medical services via mobile OPDs (Outpatient Department) and telephonic consultations with doctors and nurses, with whom the NGO has collaborated with during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While talking about the initiative undertaken by the organisation, Ms. Jolly said,
Our organisation works in the field of education, health and skill development. Health being one of the subjects that we focus on, we had the advantage of partnering with physicians we were already working with for this project. With the support of Hans Foundation, we have conducted over 2,000 OPDs till now for the poor and the needy living in the slums in Okhla, Tughlakabad, Gurgaon.
For the initiative, the organisation has dedicated a vehicle which carries a physician and the medical equipment required for the diagnosis and treatment of general health-related problems. Persons approaching the mobile OPD with serious illness are taken to a hospital. The organisation also facilitates telephonic consultations for the pregnant women and senior citizens with an aim to help them avoid going to hospitals for routine consultations and minor health issues during the pandemic. Ms Jolly highlighted that in some areas like Chilla Yamuna Khadar, medical facilities are far from the hamlets and mobile services are also inaccessible due to the muddy roads connecting these hamlets. She further said that they have been able to help over 300 pregnant women during the last four months via teleconsultation.
Commenting on the efforts of Adharshila spanning from providing ration to the families to facilitating medical services, Lt. Gen. SM Mehta, CEO, The Hans Foundation said,
The COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdowns have created a major humanitarian crisis in our country. Amidst the national capital, an invisible colony of fishermen in Chilla Yamuna Khadar has been struggling with access to the basic services and resources since the lockdown was announced. The Hans Foundation partnered with Adharshila to provide relief to the people suffering the most during the pandemic and it is encouraging to see that organisation has been able to make some impact in the lives of the worst-sufferers. We aim to continue working actively with Adharshila on the ground in areas where help is most needed.
As the organisation continues the relief work, it aims to undertake initiatives to mainstream the neglected families in the slums of Delhi especially like the families residing in Chilla Yamuna Khadar. The organisation has been able to widen the scope of stakeholder partnerships by reaching out to MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly) and involving them in some of the relief work among the neglected families. In the coming months, the organisation plans to engage the residents of Chilla Yamuna Khadar in skill development programmes to train them in skills like stitching, handicrafts among others and help them earn a better livelihood.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.