URI North India on The Corona Frontline
URI’s 20th year has been marked by a very unfortunate crisis that affected countries across the globe – the CoVid-19 Pandemic. The virus affected millions and rendered countless in highly vulnerable situations. In India, it has had a particularly grave impact on marginalised communities. The pandemic and the resultant nation-wide lockdown put lakhs of migrants, daily wage workers and labourers in a vulnerable situation. Unavailability of jobs, lack of social security measures and disruptions in public transportation systems rendered many hungry and homeless.
URI – North India & Afghanistan took it upon itself to facilitate relief for those affected. It has been instrumental in bridging the gap between those who needed help and those ready to offer it. Through the benefit of its vast network of Cooperation Circles and member groups, URI has been able to successfully facilitate distribution of ration to more than 2000 families; thereby impacting a total of more than 8500 people in a period of 3 months across North & Northeast India. In addition to ration, it has also facilitated the distribution of other essentials like sanitary napkins, masks, PPE kits etc. The relief work was carried out across Delhi NCR, Panipat in Haryana, Ludhiana & Kapurthala in Punjab, Lucknow & Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Alwar in Rajasthan, Manipur, Sikkim, and Nagaland.
The pandemic has changed the definition of who we view as ‘marginalised’. In addition to the situation of internal migrants & labourers, marginalised communities also include those who are particularly affected by social stigma – people who use drugs, those affected by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and women sex partners. The pandemic has made their condition even more difficult. URI understands this changed definition and has been making sure that particular attention is paid to them. Active support from all our partners has made it possible for URI to reach out and lend active support to these communities. URI has also been ensuring that a special emphasis is laid on developing a strategy to maximise the impact of the relief process. It has extended support and (tweaked it whenever needed) keeping in mind the socio-cultural background that each community belongs to.
To highlight a couple of our endeavours, a group of Sikkimese girls, who were stranded in New Delhi were provided with food and other essentials. URI and its partners made sure that the girls faced no harassment from their landlord for rent payment. The girls were also helped in coordinating with authorities in Sikkim for them to return home safely. In this case, the relief package was tweaked in order to suit the culinary and cultural requirements of the Sikkimese girls by eliminating wheat flour and increasing the rice quantity. People who use drugs are criminalised and therefore sent to prisons or coerced into mandatory treatment as an alternative to imprisonment. Approximately one third of all people who use drugs are estimated to be women. Women who use drugs are consistently reported to be at higher risk of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) infection. In this context, United Religions Initiative (URI)-North India & Afghanistan along with its partners mobilised INR 65,000 from young professionals and entrepreneurs. This helped in arranging the required dry ration, food and nutritional items, safety kits (including sanitary pads, soap etc.) for 100+ women who inject drugs and their families i.e., 400 people.
As we continue to extend active help to all those in need, URI is thankful to its cooperation circles, member groups, donors, student communities and other civil society organisations for making all of the above possible. In addition to relief work, URI has also been trying to keep up the morale of its team and the larger society by regularly sharing on its social media platforms – stories that show how people across the country have been keeping up the spirit of love, compassion and hope in these trying times. Both of our social media campaigns – ‘Corona to Karuna’ & ‘Stories of Hope’ were very well received. URI is thankful to its social media team and all the budding interns who made this happen.