- Akshaya Patra has been reaching out to people from vulnerable communities
- The foundation provides cooked meals or food kits consisting dry ration
- The relief programme is operating in 18 states and 2 UTs
New Delhi: As news of the COVID-19 pandemic transcended borders, nations went into a state of lockdown to curtail its progress, and the process of adjusting to a social-distanced world commenced. The world was now the virus’ battleground and brave healthcare professionals manned the frontlines in this battle, tirelessly tending to the needs of affected individuals. The pandemic has led to major economic distress across the globe, where a large chunk of people are struggling to make ends meet. In such a time, the Akshaya Patra Foundation undertook food assistance to help the vulnerable populations affected by the coronavirus in India. The organisation has now served over 7 crore meals in the from of freshly cooked food and food relief kits with essential groceries, and the programme continues to do so.
The relief programme is being carried on in 18 states and two union territories in association with the State Governments, Union Territories, Administrations and civic authorities, with the support of corporate partners and individual donors.
Akshaya Patra has been reaching out to people from vulnerable communities, such as daily-wage earners, industrial workers, labourers at construction sites, among others, across the nation, since the last week of March.
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As of July 13, it has served over 3.9 crore freshly cooked meals and 7,44,821 food relief kits—amounting to over 3.1 crore meal servings—totalling over 7.1 crore meals.
Chanchalapthi Dasa, Vice-Chairman, told NDTV,
We have been able to cumulatively serve over 7 crore meals to people in need during this pandemic due to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved. We will continue to work with the Government to provide food assistance to the underserved and vulnerable populations during these difficult times.
The Foundation is leveraging its existing state-of-the-art kitchens in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR), Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh to prepare and serve freshly cooked meals through centres assigned by the administration.
Simultaneously, it is distributing food relief kits to vulnerable communities in these states as well as in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. In states where the organisation does not have any existing kitchen infrastructure, relief feeding was extended from the nearest kitchen in the neighbouring state. The contents of these kits are based on the local palate of the region with each kit having dry ration sufficient to cook 42 or 28 meals.
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In India, one of the worst affected regions was Karnataka’s historic Mysuru district, which was overwhelmed with multiple positive cases. Undeterred, its medical professionals STUCK to the task.
On a daily basis, we had about 70 new patients, Dr Rajesh, a resident medical officer at the District Hospital in Mysuru told NDTV.
With a dedicated set of healthcare workers and the cooperation of the administrative body, everything was running smoothly, but a major hurdle soon emerged. Initially, patients were being provided meals by caterers who, unfortunately, fell within the newly charted containment zone.
Seeking possible solutions to feed people and help in their speedy recovery, Deputy Commissioner of Mysuru, Abhiram G Sankar, who had visited Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in the district, sought out the Foundation to conduct relief feeding for infected patients.
During the lockdown period, when there was nothing available, Akshaya Patra Foundation fed us very well. The food, quality and hygiene was very good, and the quantity was always sufficient. says Dr Rajesh.
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Initially, the Foundation was providing cooked meals of rice and Sambhar to the patients and the staff of the hospital. After noticing that more than 50 per cent of the population were people above the age of 50 years and prone to diabetes, Akshaya Patra’s kitchens began serving Chapatis and Palya.
It has been about two months since Akshaya Patra commenced the relief feeding operations in the District Hospital, Mysuru.
On February 14, 29 men from MV 78 village of Malkangiri district, Odisha, arrived in Bangalore. A native from their village had found them employment as contract labourers in Electronic City. However, when the lockdown was imposed, they got stuck, miles away from their family. One of these migrant workers, Prahalad Biswas, told NDTV,
When the lockdown was initiated, I cannot explain how scared we were. Work had ceased and we couldn’t go outside to get food. All of us were left wondering where would we live, what we would eat, how would we survive?
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Bapi Bagchi, a friend of Mr Biswas, connected him with Akshaya Patra. Describing his deeply felt appreciation for the people at the Foundation who helped him and 29 other migrant workers at this dire time of need, Mr Biswas says,
We had lost the will to live, but Akshaya Patra revived us. I do not know how to thank them enough for whatever they have done for us. There are no words.
Currently, Mr Biswas and his fellow workers are waiting to go back home.
We have never stayed away from home for so long. It has been four months. We really miss the village.
Despite the air of uncertainty that hangs around him and his friends, he is confident that the day will come when he can go back to the familiar roads of his village.
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.