Caritas Australia Supports India During Second COVID-19 Surge


This is the story of many of the people living in rural areas especially in tribal areas, as the second wave of COVID-19 grabbed the country during March and June this year. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were among the states which were affected seriously. Chhattisgarh was one of five states contributing to 62 per cent of the total active cases in the country.

The tribal-dominated rural districts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which had previously been reporting fewer cases compared to urban parts of India, suddenly saw a sharp increase in cases. Providing routine healthcare services in tribal districts has always been a challenge, which has made the spread alarming. Unlike the first wave of COVID spread, the second wave hit the rural villages rapidly. Due to the alarming spread in both these states, many districts in the state began imposing strict restrictions on the movement of people from March onwards. However, this didn’t help in decreasing the number of cases. Chhattisgarh has faced most Covid deaths during April and the cases increased rapidly. Both the states were under lock down for almost two months. The whole situation has affected the lives of rural people in the state financially and mentally.

Agricultural communities, informal migrant workers, people living with disabilities, widows, orphans, and daily wage labour communities have struggled to get food, especially those stranded in inaccessible areas, who do not have enough food.  Due to lock down their access to food availability has been compromised as they have lost their source of daily income. Secondly, the prices of essential food items like rice, dal, edible oil, potatoes, chillies, etc., have almost doubled (beyond the purchasing capacity of this group of people).

Considering the plight of the communities, Caritas Australia raised an emergency appeal to its citizens to mobilise funds to support the COVID-19 affected people in India. The citizens of Australia responded to the appeal and donated whole-heartedly to support the vulnerable communities in India impacted by the pandemic.

Caritas India, with the funding support from Caritas Australia, supported the most vulnerable families residing in the Gram Nirman project villages. Emphasis was given to the most vulnerable group such as migrants, people living with disabilities, widows, orphans, and daily wage earners. In consultation with existing community-based organisations, 2476 most susceptible families were identified and directly supported with dry ration kits covering eleven intervention districts from both Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Each dry ration kit included 20 kg of rice, 5kg of wheat flour, edible oil, lentil, and salt which was sufficient for approximately 20 days for an average family size of five people.

On receiving the food kit, Ms Kavita, one of the People Living with Disabilities from Chhattisgarh shared, “It has become difficult for people like us (PLWD) who depend on our families. I was so disappointed and thinking that I am not able to contribute anything to my family in this pandemic time but after receiving a food kit from Gram Nirman, I feel relief as this support reduces the load for my family at least for a month.”

Moreover, 137 project villages of Gram Nirman [73 Chhattisgarh and 64 Jharkhand] were supported with a community health kit. The kit including an oximeter, thermometer, reusable face masks, hand sanitisers and soaps,  was handed over to front-line workers in each village in the presence of community people with the orientation of its usage.

Caritas India 2

Kerry Stone
Caritas and Social Justice Coordinator
Diocese of Sandhurst