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At the end of March, we launched our Karuna Covid-19 Emergency Appeal to provide emergency relief to people in India and Nepal affected by the devastating impacts of the Coronavirus crisis.
The lockdown was announced on March 24th and within a few days our partners were alerting us to a catastrophic economic crisis affecting an estimated 460 million migrant and casual labourers who depended on daily wages for subsistence and a massive movement of people as migrants tried to travel back to their native places.
As soon as it became clear what was happening we decided to put our planned programmes strategy on hold so that we could respond flexibly to the crisis as it unfolded. We made a commitment to cover our partners’ core costs so they could maintain the salaries of their project staff and we invited them to apply for emergency grants to respond to the most urgent needs of marginalised communities.
The major needs were food relief (rice, dal, cooking oil, vegetables) , and basic medical and sanitary supplies (soap, protective masks and basic health information). Other partners were setting up helplines for migrant labourers travelling home, and for women and girls left vulnerable to increasing levels of violence and abuse.
The response to the appeal so far has been amazing - more than £213,000 has been raised so and, over the past two months, we have been doing everything we can to respond to the most urgent needs of the communities we work with.
In all, we have been able to make 43 emergency grants, totalling £280,000, including 28 grants to our brothers and sisters in the Triratna Indian trusts, bringing immediate relief to an estimated 65,000 people; including migrant workers, single parents, children, pregnant women and others made vulnerable by the crisis.
We’re incredibly grateful to all our supporters, and humbled by the amazing efforts of our partners; at the same time we’re only too aware that the crisis is worsening and many more need our help now, as they will in the months, perhaps years, to come.
With rates of COVID-19 infections increasing rapidly in India and Nepal, so too is an increase in violence, discrimination, hunger and unemployment. Mass migrations of destitute migrant workers will continue to spread the virus to even remote rural communities. For these people, proper health awareness and sanitary practices are already low and this, compounded with poverty, hugely increases their vulnerability.
That’s why we’ve decided to continue with our appeal, and we will be working hard to increase our grant and trust applications, and reach out to new supporters.
Our programme managers are in daily contact with our friends and partners in India and Nepal. We’re monitoring the situation closely and responding as best we can, continuing to make emergency grants for food and medical supplies.
At the same time we’re planning what support will be needed once the crisis starts to ease, and people are able to start rebuilding their lives.
We don’t know how long the crisis will last. What we do know is that the most vulnerable communities, particularly those we work with, will suffer the most.
As we listen to our partners in-country and navigate a way through this crisis, we are developing a plan to ensure donations are used in the best way possible. This is still “work in progress” but at this stage these are our priorities:
Immediate Emergency Response
Our first priority is to support those directly impacted by the crisis. This includes:
● Distributing emergency supplies, food kits and sanitation equipment
● Health awareness and emergency sanitation facilities for vulnerable communities at risk from infection
● Working closely with local Governments so that emergency relief reaches the most needy communities
● Protecting women and girls vulnerable to an increased risk of violence during lockdown
The loss of livelihoods will devastate incomes, increasing economic hardship for those already in poverty, pushing more girls into early marriage, or to be trafficked for work or prostitution. For these girls, ensuring return to school is not just essential, it could be life-saving.
● We will provide support for children returning to school post-lockdown, especially to prevent adolescent girls dropping out due to increased pressure on livelihoods.
Rebuilding Gender Equality
● We will provide support and counselling to women and girls from families at increased risk of violence.
● We will develop better livelihoods and conditions for daily wage labourers, helping them achieve greater security and increased opportunities for health, nutrition and education .
We’re very aware that this is a global crisis, affecting all of us in different ways. We know that many of our friends are having to deal with the impacts in their own lives - as we are at Karuna. At the same time we are determined to do everything we can to meet the increasing needs in India and Nepal, and we will continue to reach out to our supporters and well-wishers to help us respond.
To make a donation to our Karuna Covid-19 Emergency appeal please follow this link and click on Donate.
Head of Programmes, Karuna Trust