- The Hans Foundation has distributed over 98,000 ration kits so far
- COVID-19 has led to a rise in the food insecurity in the country: CEO
- Foundation has set up over 5,000 isolation beds in Uttarakhand
New Delhi: Poonam Kondar, a 29-year-old resident of village Bhasuda, Ajaigarh Block, Panna District, Madhya Pradesh lives with her husband – Ganesh Kondar, 31 and two daughters, little over two year old Kamla and six month old Akhilesh. Husband and wife both being daily labourers, were unable to afford feeding nutritious food to their children, with their meagre earnings. Their daughter Kamla was a confirmed case of severe acute malnourishment. Even the little earning that they had stopped when the nationwide lockdown was imposed in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Poonam said, “The lockdown has been harsh on us. There is no income now. No savings left. My husband got some work in the village last month but only for few days. We do not have a ration card because when we applied, we were not eligible for getting foodgrains under the ration scheme. The lockdown left us in desperate need of food until The Hans Foundation came to our village and provided us cooked meals and ration. There is still an uncertainty about when we will get new employment, but for now, we have no choice but to depend on donation.”
In order to help families like Poonam’s and many other poor and needy people who have been battling the economic challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, Gurugram based non-governmental organisation The Hans Foundation (THF), has been working on a war footing since the beginning of the lockdown and has reached out to more than 6,000 poor families across several states. The Hans Foundation was established in 2009 as a Public Charitable Trust with an aim to work in the areas of health, education and livelihoods and to provide financial aid to other NGOs working in the same area.
According to Lieutenant General S M Mehta, CEO, The Hans Foundation, the organisation has so far distributed over 98,000 ration kits including foodgrains, lentils and cooking essentials and hygiene kits that include sanitisers, masks, handwash and sanitary napkins. He further said that organisation has been supporting various state governments by providing them with ventilators and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipments). He said,
There were two issues that we wanted to address initially, first, was to feed the people who lost their means of survival due to the lockdown and then there was a dire need to provide medical and safety equipment like ventilators, PPEs. So, we started a programmes to address both issues, first in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and then soon to almost all states across the country with help of our partner organisations and by making new partners. We also collaborated with various state governments for relief work. We started our relief work with those who were stuck at various places because of the lockdown. During the initial days of the lockdown, we helped almost 5,000 students and migrant workers stuck in Delhi and NCR to reach to their home towns safely. We also provided ration to over 6,000 poor families during the lockdown and continue to do so. In the meanwhile, we also started working on procuring essential medical and safety equipments and providing the same to hospitals and healthcare centres. Our branch in USA with support from America India Foundation (AIF) provided ventilators worth almost Rs. 2 crore to various states from where the requisition came like West Bengal, Rajasthan, Assam and others.
He further said that since the lockdown was imposed, the organisation has provided cooked meals and ration and hygiene kits to lakhs of migrant workers through their own efforts and through the efforts of their partner organisations at the grassroots. While speaking with NDTV about the support received from the foundation in terms of funds, Ranjan K. Panda, Deputy Director and Chief of Programmes, of Child in Need Institute (CINI), a non-governmental organisation based in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, said,
The financial aid received from THF has supported us to reach out to over 34,000 families in West Bengal and Jharkhand. During the lockdown, we were able to supplementary nutrition called ‘Nutrimix’ cooked locally by our staff members to over 30,000 children and pregnant and lactating mothers. Young children and new mothers were the worst hit due to the lockdown because they require a good amount of nutrition but were not getting adequate nutritional care since for over a month, the government programmes related to nutrition were halted in the villages. When finally the ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) and Anganwadi workers resumed health and nutrition services, they started sluggishly because being on the frontline, they too were facing a huge risk of getting infected. Thus, they focused majorly on the severely acute malnourished children.
Apart from the providing the relief material and medical equipments, The Hans Foundation had also supported the Uttarakhand government in setting up isolation camp in Champawat district which shares a border with Nepal and because of the lockdown, a number of migrant workers went to and came from Nepal. It also helped in setting up another isolation camp in Udhamsingh Nagar, Uttarakhand in partnership with the state government on a war footing. Mr. Mehta said that THF provided over 5,000 beds, mosquito nets and 10,000 mattresses and bedsheets to these isolation camps.
On the challenges faced by the organisation while undertaking the relief work during the lockdown, Mr. Mehta said,
We faced huge challenges during the relief work because of the lockdown. When we were setting up the isolation camps, coordination with different vendors for procuring the required items was difficult. We had to run around to get the things and for this running around, we had to apply and wait for passes. Along with this, there were the challenges related to authenticity of the items being procured for the relief work. It was necessary for us to be physically present to ensure that the foodgrains or the PPEs are of high quality. On top of this, there was always a risk of exposing ourselves to the virus while procuring items and during ration and other relief material distribution. And while we tried to maintain as much precautions as we can, one of our staff members got infected with the virus.
As The Hans Foundation carry forward their efforts towards serving those living on the edge because of the pandemic, the organisation has recently ventured into a livelihood project to help the daily wagers and migrant workers who lost employment during the pandemic. While signing off, Mr. Mehta said,
We have to accept the fact that the pandemic is not going to get over soon, as WHO (World Health Organisation) has said on multiple occasions. Those who have lost their livelihood have been living in unimaginable for the past few months and need be brought back into the economy. COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has created a humanitarian and health security challenge. The government of India has set a Commissionerate for the migrant workers with an aim to help them get livelihood within their home state itself and THF has partnered with the states of Uttarakhand and Nagaland for the same. We are now starting projects to provide skills to the migrant workers to help them earn a living in micro, small and medium enterprises.
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.