Protect 10 million most marginalized people from COVID-19
Mansha Vij, #COVIDActionCollab
October 23, 2021
India is going through two major challenges – first, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, and second, hesitancy in getting vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus. To help people cope with such unprecedented challenges, it is important for government and civil society organizations to come together to provide support and guide vulnerable people.
Protect 10 million most marginalized people from COVID-19
COVID-19 has also brought in a four-fold increase in unemployment, even more harshly for the economically backward classes and informal sector. The rural population was hit the hardest due to the lockdown, as most of them earn through agriculture and daily wage workers in specific service sectors. It also meant that migrant workers living in urban areas were not able to earn a livelihood and send money to their families in rural areas, which deepened their lack of access to healthcare. Street vendors and migrant workers form a large part of the informal economy, which was hit the most. It became important for such people to seek social protection schemes but lack of awareness, complex procedures and lack of identity proofs and other documents emerged as main obstacles to taking advantage of protection mechanisms already in place only for them.
Soon after the first wave, since July 2020, ISRA has been helping communities avail essential documentation such as Aadhar card (as basic identity document), ration card, and Ayushman Bharat card (for healthcare access) to take advantage of several welfare schemes offered by the government. More than 11,000 people have been able to take advantage of such schemes with the support of ISRA, including street vendors who have registered for the street vendor compensations scheme and get a direct benefit transfer of 10,000 INR.
The pandemic has accentuated the impoverishment and vulnerability of several marginalized communities. The need of the hour is to strengthen the ties between government welfare schemes and vulnerable populations who have been impacted by COVID-19. Even though various schemes have been launched by governments for many years, several grassroots organizations were required to help people connect to such schemes.
House helps and daily wage earners face challenges in getting time to go to the vaccine centre for the shot, as it would lead to loss of income. They also have a constant fear of losing their jobs or wages if they take time to recover from the after-effects of the vaccine. Transport services from home to vaccination centres, different periods for vaccination and door-to-door awareness are necessary to ensure COVID-19 vaccination for all.
With its young fleet of on-ground volunteers, ISRA in association with Jan Kalyan Samiti is helping such people with COWIN registration. Catering to a population of 14,06,000 people across western Uttar Pradesh, ISRA is vaccinating vulnerable populations for COVID-19 in collaboration with Jan Kalyan Samiti and USAID. It has collaborated with around 762 local and religious leaders, such as private practitioners, gram pradhans, teachers, community leaders etc, to address vaccine hesitancy, especially across various pockets of Uttar Pradesh. ISRA has partnered with local authorities to ensure dates for vaccination camps are announced well in advance, and these camps are open from early morning till late night.
Vulnerable communities, at the peak of the first and second waves and the successive lockdowns, witnessed a harsh struggle for food, ration, hospital beds, and oxygen. Lack of access to proper nutrition, food, and healthcare resources have kept economically and socially vulnerable groups facing health issues irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemics, such as anemia, malnutrition and other non-communicable diseases.
A team of more than 120 volunteers was assigned to verify requirements and information on beds available in the hospitals, particularly around the Ghaziabad area. It also carried forward a strong integration between non-government and government hospitals and organizations to provide relief to more than 7500 people. ISRA is also helping local authorities in states such as Delhi/NCR and Uttar Pradesh in setting up health and nutrition camps to help communities fight such diseases.
Jeevan, advisor and member of ISRA, shares his on-ground experiences of tackling the second wave of COVID-19. “It was a tough time collating information and resources because the demands of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders were greater than the resources we had. Just when we were figuring out ways to help people, we got a call from a businessman we had helped two days ago. As a gesture of goodwill and faith, he helped us set up a team of 100 volunteers and a helpline to assist people. We set up all guidelines and instructions in a day time and started our helpline which went on during the entire second wave.” Such stories of resilience have a deep impact on understanding how collective strength can foster social and economic growth for vulnerable populations.
ISRA (Institute of Social Responsibility and Accountability) is founded by a team of young professionals who work towards empowering the wellbeing of the poor and the marginalized, along with creating awareness around various social protection and welfare schemes available. Along with several partners such as Jan Kalyan Samiti and Voluntary Health Association Tripura, ISRA has been at the forefront of providing social support to hundreds of vulnerable families across states during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have a strong presence in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi/NCR, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka.
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