India is ‘gasping for breath’
According to the Johns Hopkins University, Coronavirus cases across the globe have breached the 150 million mark and has caused over 3 million deaths.
India has recorded 18.3 million cases and about 2.04 lakh people have lost their lives. Currently, the country is reeling under the ‘second surge’ also termed as the most deadly surge of the virus. Healthcare systems are at the brink of collapse, from cities to small towns there is a shortage of Oxygen, Vaccines, covid relief medication, even the space to cremate or bury loved ones, where people are seen making makeshift arrangements and cremating their loved ones on the roadside and footpaths. The country is literally ‘gasping for breath’.
Authorities continue to take crucial steps in order to curb Covid-19 from spreading, but the magnitude of numbers is simply staggering.
The worst hit are the elderly globally. In India, 90% elderly are from the unorganized sector. Identified as the most vulnerable section of society, they are the hardest hit both in rural & urban areas. Challenge is especially acute in poorer states with significant populations destitute and living hand-to-mouth.
HelpAge India’s Relief Intervention
HelpAge India has been working on-ground, both pre & post the lockdowns, focussing on the poor, destitute, and disadvantaged elders, who are struggling to simply survive. As per a survey done by HelpAge, 65% of elders stated that the Covid-19 lockdown impacted their livelihood of which 60% were from rural India. 71% of elders said that the livelihood of the breadwinner of their family was heavily impacted. The current curbs & restrictions in the country to control the surge of cases has brought many elder livelihoods to a standstill.
With no money to survive on, most poor elders living in villages & urban slums, barely have enough food to eat and therefore cannot afford even basic medication, resulting in a worsening of their health condition, especially those suffering from chronic diseases.
During disasters, mostly the younger able-bodied manage to access relief packages, elders are silently left behind, as they are too fragile to run and access relief vehicles in time. Therefore, HelpAge ensures that during relief distributions, while the homeless, migrant workers and poor, receive the much-needed relief, the focus remains on the elderly.
The elderly face the highest risk of fatality from the disease. Social Distancing has its own challenges for elders, many of whom are already struggling with loneliness, restricted mobility, anxiety, and lack of financial security. Many are physically frail with chronic conditions, living alone, and have no one to turn to.
Based on the need assessment on-ground, here are some of HelpAge India’s interventions:
- Survival Kits providing basic ration & essential items to poor elders and their families. The kit includes items like rice, wheat, spices, cooking oil, soap, detergent along with Immunity boosters such as Zincovit, Vitamin C, and Basic Screening Tools such as Finger Pulse Oximeter & infrared Thermometer.
- Corona Protection Hygiene Kits which include soaps, detergents, high-quality reusable face masks.
- Vaccination Facilitation of elder beneficiaries from HelpAge supported Elder-Self-Help-Groups & Mobile Healthcare program in rural India and Senior Citizens Association members in urban India. This includes vaccination awareness drives, helping elders with the registration process & transportation of elders to vaccination centers.
- Essential Medical support through its vast national network of 170 plus Mobile Healthcare Units, providing free medicines & treatment, to poor elders & their community in rural areas and slums. This is critical, as most elders are chronic patients suffering from hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc, and cannot afford to pay for their medicines, many are physically frail or bed-ridden, and cannot walk to the nearest hospital or PHC. These MHUs provide free medicines and treatment virtually to the doorstep.
- HelpAge’s National Elders Helpline (1800-180-1253) active across 21 states in India, is providing much-needed assistance to elders in need, those abandoned on streets, left to fend for themselves, malnourished and in need of medication, shelter, hospitalization, and other support during this time.
- Online Digital Literacy Training Workshops for both rural & urban elders – enabling them to do online transactions such as paying their utility bills, online banking, grocery shopping, connect with family & friends, for rural elders even help with their livelihood, so they can become independent and self-reliant. HelpAge has also started online classes specifically to assist senior citizens with Registration for Covid Vaccination and tackling misinformation.
- HelpAge Old Age Homes – residents are being provided basic essentials, food, medical aid, and help with vaccination during this time, constant health check-ups are conducted to ensure their safety.
The need on-ground is immense and the numbers staggering. Help is required from all corners to meet this surging demand.