The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict enormous damage to communities and economies across the globe. Governments, healthcare workers, public servants, corporate and civil society all are trying to contain the spread and find a permanent fix for the virus. Thus far, lockdown of cities and in several cases of the entire nations has been the most common strategy adopted by the governments across the world to prevent the spread of virus. In India, the nationwide lockdown announced on 24 March 2020 entered its fourth phase (Lockdown 4.0) on 18th May.
The success of lockdown in containing the spread of virus is evident from the data available at various platforms which is further proven especially when the number of infected persons and deaths are compared with coronavirus cases and people succumbed to infection respectively in other countries, especially the developed nations.
However, the lockdown has wreaked havoc on economic growth. With the disruption of economic activities lacs of people in informal sector have lost their livelihood. Most of these people are migrant laborers who survive on day-to-day wages. According to a report by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), 87% of the people walking home are either daily wage labourers or domestic help or drivers. These daily wage labourers are the ones who have greatly suffered due to sudden enforcement of the lockdown that brought the entire nation to a standstill, defunct the entire transport system and left them stranded in middle of nowhere with no one to ensure their well-being and to an extent their very survival.
The dysfunctional transport system, unavailability of very means of survival such as food and shelter left them with no choice but to start a long walk back home crossing cities and villages, battling hunger, thirst, and heat. SWAN also reported that 72% of people going back home have run out of ration. In response to the damage being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of industrialists, corporate, non-governmental organisations, civil society actors and academic institutions have come forward in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on poor and less privileged individuals, families and society at large.
Imbued with the philanthropic legacy of Birla family, Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), a premier B-school located in Greater Noida, is committed towards nurturing responsible business managers and building communities that are resilient and inclusive.
Over the years, the institute has set new benchmark in community development by responding to the needs of local communities and addressing pressing social issues from education, malnutrition to women empowerment. The institute has taken a long stride in response to the current humanitarian emergency caused by the Wuhan virus. Soon after the lockdown came into effect the institute started several initiatives to lessen the effects of pandemic on the migrant workers living around it.
The interventions include:Food for All: Under this initiative, the institute is providing nutritious cooked meal and dry ration to 450 persons. The food is prepared under clean and hygienic conditions in the state-of-the-kitchen facilities available at BIMTECH.
To ensure that the food amount is adequate, 10% excess food is prepared daily. In order to prevent any form of mass gathering and follow the social distancing measures some precautionary measure have also been taken. A major step in this direction is selection of community leaders for the collection and distribution of food in their respective communities. A total 19 community leaders are selected and assigned to collect cooked meal from the RCI Hostel Gate of the Institute.
These community leaders pick the food and distribute among the different families living in a community. This measures also brought efficiency in implementation by reducing the delivery time. The initiative has brought relief to 450 persons every day or to say 27,000 individuals during the last 2 months. The institute is bringing smile on the faces of 100 children who daily receive milk, biscuits, and nutrition supplements.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
The target beneficiaries are also being informed about importance of cleanliness and hygiene not only to deal with and prevent COVID-19 infections but also its importance in leading a healthy life. People of all ages are being apprised about best practices of cleaning hands with soap such as to give at least 20 seconds to hand washing and clean the hands repeatedly. To ensure people follow the cleanliness and hygiene practices, they are provided with soaps, and hands sanitizers.
In addition to the supply of cooked food and dry ration, BIMTECH has joined hands with the district administration to support the food programme of government. BIMTECH’s mess kitchen is consistently preparing and providing Roti to local administration for distribution. So far, the initiative has helped 36,000 persons.
Livelihood for women
Lacs have lost livelihood due to the disruption of industrial activities because of nationwide lockdown enforced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. BIMTECH believe in maintaining the dignity of life and equal work opportunity. To ensure the pandemic do not damage the capacity of earning, BIMTECH is providing decent work opportunity to women who or their family member lost their livelihood. BIMTECH has engaged 30 women in economic activity. These women are being given wastepaper to make envelops. Each woman works for 2 hrs per day and earns Rs. 50 from this activity. Although the financial gains are limited but helping the women and their families in keeping their morale and spirit high.
Care for All Life Forms
It has not gone unnoticed that the stray animals which especially in urban areas depends on households’ disposal and leavings for their survival are also worst hit by the pandemic. The institute is feeding stray cows, dogs, and other animals in the vicinity. The food left after distribution among individuals is fed to free roaming animals.
Like its other community development initiatives, BIMTECH has an adaptive management system in place. The beneficiaries are routinely asked about the taste, quality, quantity, and their food preferences. The idea is supported by several clinical studies which have shown that flat taste, insufficient, and inferior quality of food may result in people stop enjoying the food and even lose interest in eating leading to wastage of food.
Thus, based on the feedback received from the beneficiaries, the institute regularly incorporate their food choices in menu to ensure that people happily eat the meal and not only to keep their body and soul intact. In addition, people being served are asked about the kinds of challenge that they foresee in the coming times and what support should be provided to enable them to effectively surmount those challenges. Based on the concerns expressed by different stakeholders, the institute is planning the future course of action one of which is integration of this emergent response into the existing education and skill development initiative of the institute to reduce the impact of poverty and underprivileged of the cataclysmic effects of coronavirus pandemic.
However, success of any intervention to effectively address emergent situation like current humanitarian emergency heavily depends on continuous learning and course correction based on beneficiary feedback. Social bonding, community engagement and adaptive management have been the core components of the intervention which are indispensable while dealing with any humanitarian emergency.
Sharing the concerns of the community members, one on one discussion with them helps in building trust and rapport. Direct involvement of community in the project give the project ownership to the community members, enhance acceptability, and increases chances of success. The adaptive management backed by continuous communication and feedback mechanism allows informed management decisions, timely course correction thereby improve the effectiveness of intervention which ultimately have a greater impact.
(Views are personal)