We Stand with India

May 17, 2021

As Cases Rise in India, We Embrace Our Common Humanity

We stand in solidarity with our community partners and staff who are on the frontlines of this human crisis as cases of COVID across India rise to devastating levels.

Across India, Hunger Project staff and local elected women leaders and adolescent girls, trained by The Hunger Project, are equipping their communities with reliable information and connecting them with needed services. In 2020, these local leaders… 

  • Reached more than 74 million listeners with radio broadcasts on food security and public health;
  • Engaged with 42,000 people through COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention Campaigns; and
  • Shared critical information with 500,000 people through information sharing phone chains—dispelling myths and addressing vaccine resistance.

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Now, in the second wave of the pandemic that has gripped India since April 2021, our partners and staff members continue to step into action.

Even with stricter lockdowns nationwide, THP-India has a unique position: Situated in the rural heartland, its response and actions are grounded in a well functioning strategy put into motion during the first wave. A strong and capable cadre of elected women representatives (current and former), field staff, adolescent girls and other networks across 7,600 villages are navigating through the multiple crises on the ground to immediately support rural communities, and especially the most marginalized members. This network is:

  • Raising awareness about COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, and motivating people to register for vaccines by dispelling myths.
  • Ensuring government food distribution and other public welfare schemes are reaching those who need them.
  • Setting up check-up camps and distributing masks and sanitizers in collaboration with the government and other NGOs.
  • Monitoring and preventing crowding at drinking water sources, vaccination centres, state borders.
  • Conducting door-to-door surveys to monitor health and symptoms of COVID-19-positive people, ensuring protocols are followed, and medical kits are available for the sick.
  • Addressing violence against women and girls. In this second wave, they are seeing a  15% surge in distress calls, including reports on trafficking, abuse (secxual, mental and physical), child marriage and child labor. Elected women leaders are raising awareness about effectively using government and police helplines.
  • Mobilizing community and individual philanthropy from wealthier individuals in the community — for example, rebuilding a house for one citizen, and procuring food rations for the most vulnerable.
    Advocating for COVID care centers, vaccination camps and testing camps statewide.

At the national level, THP-India staff is in regular communication with this network across six states — via phone calls, text messages and WhatsApp to document their efforts, elevate their advocacy messages regarding critical needs (like testing and vaccination camps, medicines, medical kits, hospital beds, oxygen facilities), and coordinate with administration. THP-India is serving as an information hub, circulating resources to the leaders regarding COVID protocols, hospital beds, government programs, guidelines regarding COVID orphans, and helpline information and other important numbers. 

Going forward, some key actions of THP-India include:

  • Launching an awareness drive to bust myths surrounding the vaccine with posters, skits, mobile van campaigns, radio programs and short videos;
  • Supporting elected women in developing a database of single women with small children and COVID orphans, to track their situation and inform appropriate government committees to ensure they are linked to the proper social protection programs; and
  • Advocating for elected women representatives to be recognized as frontline workers for access to the vaccine, given their everyday engagement with communities.

As our staff in India courageously take on this work, they, too, are directly impacted. We are deeply heartbroken at the recent loss of our dear colleague, Charu Bhati, due to COVID complications. A bright, vivacious spirit, Charu had many dreams to chase, and hers is a life gone too soon. Since then, we have also lost two field partners in Odisha due to COVID-19. 

THP-India has initiated “emergency community care leave” to support staff who are voluntarily stepping out and supporting family, friends, neighbors and others in their community — organizing beds, medicines and other logistics. 

In India and around the world, our staff and community leaders in 14,568 villages are distributing public health information in local languages, supporting those most at risk in their communities to access services, and mobilizing community philanthropy. And, At the global level, we are advocating for equitable and urgent access to vaccines, as our Global Vice President Rowlands Kaotcha recently stressed in an op-ed in Reuters Foundation News.

We are all interconnected, and our entire family of community partners, staff and investors worldwide are standing together—with an outpouring of compassion and commitment for all of humanity. 

Pictured: Women in Bihar, India collecting government-supplied rations. 2021.

Update: This post was updated on May 28, 2021 to reflect additional programmatic activities during the second wave of COVID-19 in India.