India keeps on setting grim records in the fight against the coronavirus. And as if that were not enough, the country is repeatedly hit by natural disasters. People who are already living at subsistence level are fighting for survival. SWISSAID has responded by providing emergency aid.
The emergency aid project helps the beneficiaries to protect themselves against the coronavirus and provides them with essential goods that they can no longer obtain or buy due to the restrictions in the fight against COVID-19. Families in need are given food, seeds and masks. They are also made aware of important hygiene measures to protect themselves against infection.
A rat darts through the empty streets. Where once there was colourful hustle and bustle, now there is a yawning emptiness. When a new virus left the whole world paralysed in shock this spring, the Hingalganj region of West Bengal in India was hit particularly hard. A country where over 90 percent of the 465 million workers are employed in the informal sector is particularly vulnerable to this kind of crisis. Then at the end of May, cyclone Amphan left a trail of destruction in northeast India. People are saying it was one of the worst storms in the last 20 years.
Environmental disaster, economic crisis, coronavirus: for the elderly, single women, people with disabilities and migrants in particular, it is more than ever a question of life and death in India.
Emergency aid in places where SWISSAID has been working in close cooperation with local partner organisations for decades can save over 70,000 men, women and children from the worst of the impact. The focus is on protecting them from COVID-19 on the one hand, and restoring food security for those most in need on the other.
Hope dies last
“During the lockdown we had no income and the cyclone devastated everything”, reports Mallika Mistri, a young woman from Sandelerbil. Because of the lockdown, which lasted for weeks, smallholder farmers like her were unable to sell their produce at the market.
While some were starving, elsewhere the harvest was rotting. Migrant women workers – who fled back to their home villages at the beginning of the crisis – were missing from the fields. For many, emergency aid is the last hope. “The seeds we received were a great help. We survived by eating and selling the vegetables we grew from them”, Mallika Mistri says. And when you see her walking through the lush green of her garden wearing a mask and a red and yellow sari, it’s clear that the crisis is not over yet. But hope dies last.