In times of Covid
Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan
Covid-19 global pandemic - a time extraordinaire! The world has changed fundamentally as a result of the sudden onset on Covid-19. This has brought huge uncertainty across the globe.
Guaging the national Covid-19 scenario, Hummingbird closed down its office in India and also requested partners to halt any field level activities from 18 May 2020. The national lockdown was announced by the Govt of India from 24 March 2020. Since then Hummingbird and partners are working from home with very minimal mobility and field work maintaing govt. mandated safety standards.
The situation is fluid and rapidly changing both in India and globally. There will be significant disruption for potentially 1-2 years.The problems arising are not just medical and economic. The pandemic is already having profound effects on many aspects of our society. India has seen some devastating effects as a result of shutdowns and mass migrations. The problems of trafficking and unsafe migration, which Hummingbird seeks to tackle and prevent, is only being magnified by the pandemic.
The govt has announced some relief packages to support vulnerable families.
Cyclone Amphan, hit West Bengal on May 20 claiming 86 lives so far and affecting over 10 million people in the eastern Indian state. The powerful storm ripped through eastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh. The storm in West Bengal caused massive damage to standing crops, thousands of trees were uprooted, and power and water supply was interrupted in the state capital Kolkata. Many in the state have lost their entire homes as well. Measures to check the spread of COVID-19 pandemic has compounded efforts to keep people safe from cyclone Amphan even as migrant workers return home to West Bengal. Due to the pandemic situation, a total number of 2797 of migrant workers lost their jobs and reported to return to their homes in seven panchayats where the seven partners of the Hummingbird Foundation is present.
Its been 5 months now, our partners' ability to carry out their work, especially fieldwork, is severely hampered by the restrictions imposed by the government and by the dangers caused by the spread of the pandemic.
The Health and Family Welfare department of Government of West Bengal has confirmed a total of 116,498 COVID-19 positive cases, including 27,299 active cases and 2428 deaths, as of 16 August 2020.
Situation on Ground
Young people (this includes our Collective members, beyond collective members and core group) are virtually reaching out to their peers and communities to updates, creating awareness on COVID-19 and child protection issues like drop out, child labour, child marriage.
Many parents have lost their jobs and trying to meet their ends by doing agriculture or vegetable vending. Some have been able to engage in 100 day work under the MGNREHA scheme, re-introduced in many places as part of relief schemes post Covid-19 and Cyclone.
VLCPC members are working as frontline workers and taking regular updates from vulnerable families over phone. ASHA, AWW and PRI members are doing home visit on a regular interval. ASHA workers are doing door to door home visit to spread awareness as well as to monitor the health condition of the people. Some clubs and SHG members are keeping themselves engaged in distributing foods to poor families. CBIs are helping panchayat in relief distribution & creating awareness within the community. PRI members are closely associated with food distribution system including distribution of masks and other relief items.
Hummingbird remained alert and proactive throughout.
Within the first few weeks, Hummingbird Board supported all the partners with a one-time grant for relief response. Relief support provided through 8 partners, till now:
- Food ration - 1,156 Vulnerable Households
- Hygiene Kit - 2,200 people
Almost immediately, the Hummingbird Board identified the key principles for the way ahead:
- The physical safety of our employees and the employees and associates of our partners is paramount.
- Communication with our partners is more important than ever.
- We are still focused on building a scalable model for the prevention of trafficking.
- We must focus on what can be done and what positive steps we can take during this period of upheaval. This should be our blueprint for our work during these times.
- We are not experts in medical support and hygiene and will leave this to the experts in these areas.
- We recognise a moral duty to support our partners and the communities in which they work, both through our actions and financially.
- We will keep the situation under continuous review and will be flexible in our approach as is required.
And with the principles in mind, Hummingbird Board decided to reprioritize the objectives towards accelerating consolidation of the learnings and data to develop the Prevention of Trafficking Model, harvesting the expertise of our partners, the co-creators in our journey. The lockdown is seeing sharp rise in the vulnerabilities leading to increased trafficking. In that context this work is even more critical. Hence we have initiated building the Model and populating the User Manual.
Huge emphasis has been given towards regular strategic communication and coaching of partners to help realise the plan. Partners are getting on board as Ambassadors of the Model.
Partners – the Key Collaborators
Partners are playing a key role in supporting the Hummingbird team to write the Model and populate the User Manual. This is the primary task undertaken by all the seven partners. This involved an internal discussion within the respective, noting down the inputs, discussion with Hummingbird team to share the inputs and submission of the minutes to Hummingbird. The whole process is facilitated by the Project Coordinators and MEL Co-ordinators of the respective partner.
Regular field work stopped from mid-March 2020 following the national regulations of lockdown. During the lockdown many positive cases surfaced in our operational sansads as a result of migrant influx from red zones & vulnerabilities magnified.
Despite disruption of regular work, partners are playing an important role in connecting communities with government relief packages and schemes and conducting awareness on Covid-19 prevention. 9743 vulnerable families were linked with different government schemes & services during this period.
Partners are are in regular touch with the communities, virtually. Partners reach out to the Collective members & their parents to keep their morale up during this pandemic, discuss the status during COVID-19 situation, issues related to early marriage and child labour. The partners are engaged with Collectives through different activities like quiz, drawing competition, essay competition to increase awareness among the collective members about personal health hygiene, COVID -19 and trafficking.
They also reach out to the Panchayat, VLCPC members, School Teachers etc. The VLCPC members in association with the Animators identify the families in need of relief support in their areas and conducted relief distribution work in their respective sansads. Advocacy done with panchayat and block level officials for maintaining a migration register in the Panchayat so that the vulnerability of migrant labours can be reduced.
The partners conducted training on prevention of COVID-19, Child protection, Mental health, Community engagement etc by using different social media for the staff and VLCPC members.