“We hope and pray that the situation does not deteriorate further” said Kavita Ghandi in March 2020 when we asked her about the situation in India. As if she had guessed even then that this was to remain a pious wish: Although the Corona situation eased for a short time in autumn and winter 2020, the current situation is more catastrophic than ever.
Overloaded hospitals without sufficient oxygen reserves, lack of staff, lack of protective material and respirators, overcrowded crematoria, people despairing. The situation in India is dramatic. Chaos everywhere you look. More than 200,000 deaths have already been reported, the number of unreported cases is unknown. Within the last week, there have been more than 300,000 confirmed new Corona infections every day: This was confirmed by the Indian Ministry of Health on 28 April (source: OWID).
“What i see with my own eyes disturbs me greatly. Corona numbers are increasing not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. Against this catastrophe our health system against this catastrophe.” Kavita Ghandi, Head of Coordination Office India
SWISSAID: We see frightening images from India in the media. How do you assess the general situation and how are the employees of the coordination offices and the partners doing?
Kavita Ghandi: The situation in India is bad. Corona numbers are increasing not only in the cities but also in rural areas. Our health infrastructure is not equipped to deal with the scale of this disaster. We are very concerned about the situation as all of us have friends and family members who have been affected. The SWISSAID coordination office is closed and staff are working from their home offices. In the partner organisations, some of the staff have contracted Corona. Neither our staff nor those of the partner organisations are travelling in the villages because of the risk of infection. Despite these difficult conditions, we are working flat out to continue our work for the benefit of the poorest.
Solidarity with India
SWISSAID: Can the regular SWISSAID projects be continued?
Kavita Ghandi: We have adapted our project activities to the dramatic situation in many parts of the country, including the state of Maharashtra, where SWISSAID runs many projects, and reduced them where necessary. We do not want to put either our employees or the staff of our partners at risk. Where the internet connection in the villages is good, we are carrying out some online training on gender equality. Other projects, particularly in education against domestic violence, can also continue. And in February and March we launched a campaign against child marriage. Our partner organisations had received indications that child marriages were taking place. Our partners intervene with these families and try to prevent these child marriages from taking place.
SWISSAID: From May to September 2020, we were able to support around 55,000 beneficiaries with Corona emergency aid projects. How are we helping now?
Kavita Ghandi: In our project regions, state aid is flowing and thanks to the work of our partners, such as widows’ pensions or the distribution of basic foodstuffs. We continue to support our partner organisation CYDA, which works to raise awareness about vaccinations. Few people vaccinate themselves, especially in low-income settlements. We are helping to recruit new staff to support the government vaccination centres with organisation, data management and patient counselling. And we are clarifying how we can provide other concrete help, such as procuring ventilators.
“The most important thing now is to provide emergency medical aid.”
The most important thing now is to invest in the health infrastructure: The country needs new hospitals, oxygen, medicines and must train more health workers.
SWISSAID supports its partner organisation CYDA, which works to raise awareness of vaccinations. Especially in the low-income settlements vaccinate few peoplen.
SWISSAID: The coronavirus is exacerbating the hunger crisis. What is the situation like in India?
Kavita Ghandi: At the moment, it is mainly the health system and the infrastructure that are in crisis. But the impact on food security is just as problematic. If the situation worsens, hunger is imminent. Curfews and quarantine measures are delaying the harvest and making it increasingly difficult to obtain food. Food is becoming scarce, especially for people in remote areas. This makes local agriculture all the more important and vital. We therefore work every day to support farmers in converting to agro-ecological farming so that they have enough food for themselves and their families even in times of crisis.
What is needed now is not just emergency medical aid If the situation worsens worsens food will be scarce. SWISSAID is doing everything in its power that the poorest Farmers can continue to be fed during this enough to Food for themselves and their families.