Ladder to Awareness and Acceptance- COVID relief initiatives by Swanirwar -By Asha Devi

Click here to view a video containing pictures of the COVID relief activities, described below through joint ventures of Swanirwar and Vibha.

On 5th and 6th May 2021, thousands of people who had moved to major cities of India like Mumbai, Delhi, Noida, Bangaluru and Pune for work started moving back to their homes in Denganga and Baduria in West Bengal due to the lockdown imposed in the respective states. Now that the train service had been stopped, these migrants needed to rely on trucks, minivans, bicycles and even on their feet to walk long distances to come back home when they could not find any other mode of transportation. Their young children, adolescent girls, and wives accompanied them too. And hence ensuring the safety and security of their family members became a matter of concern for these workers. 

Moreover, few of them started showing COVID symptoms like fever and cough. In many cases, a suspected COVID patient is viewed as an outcast due to the lack of awareness, fear and superstitions about COVID. There are instances where families of suspected COVID patients have been restricted access to even safe drinking water. Because of such stigma attached to COVID, people have now started avoiding tests and also denying the symptoms.

Our on ground partner, Swanirvar from Baduria 24 Parganas District (West Bengal) has been working hard to mitigate these crises. 

Nilangshu Gain, secretary of Swanirvar says, “We are trying hard to find people with suspected COVID infection and bring them to COVID test centers. When we came to know once that 6 children had returned home with their parents yesterday (6th May 2021) and they were trying avoid the test, we immediately persuaded the adults in these three families to go for the test at Deganga Hospital.” The Swanirvar team tried to understand a reason behind the reluctance and fear of the COVID test among these migrant workers and the team learned the reason being the possible quarantining if the test came positive. Because not being able to go to work would be a hindrance for them to feed their children. Also, even while doing the test at a center, the villagers had no one to take care of their children. Hence, Swanirvar team assured them that the Swanirvar volunteers will provide food to their children if parents need to undergo COVID treatment and also the volunteers will take care of their children when they go for COVID testing.

Now to ensure a smooth process, Swanirvar has taken up the responsibility to provide free meals to the children whose parents are taking the COVID test in their village community centre. To mitigate the fear of the test, add inclusivity of COVID patients within the frame work of village and increase awareness in villages, Swanirvar is organizing a 7-day mega awareness campaign on COVID, targeting migrant families and daily workers. The campaign shall also include distribution of face masks and information leaflets to raise awareness about COVID testing as well as vaccination. This is to identify migrant families who are traveling back to West Bengal from Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. In the 7-day campaign migrant children will be registered and provided ration cards to access subsidized food or free food made available by the government through the panchayat. For which, on 5th May 2021, the Swanirvar team distributed 1500 leaflets and 200 masks in 6 villages and 2 markets. They have also organized an awareness campaign in 6 villages with villagers and 50 migrant families which returned from Noida, Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai.

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