“Covid-19 has changed many things in India, leaving people struggling with hunger.”

Susmita (left) interacts with students during a class at a Multi Activity Centre in West Bengal, India.

Susmita (left) interacts with children at a Multi Activity Centre in West Bengal, India. Photo: Avijit Ghosh/DEC

“It was truly devastating when a second wave of Covid-19 engulfed India in May 2021. At its peak, cases soared to 400,000 a day and overwhelmed our entire health system – we were just not ready for it. Doctors, nurses, and frontline workers all gave their best, but hospitals ran out of oxygen supplies and beds were so scarce. People were very scared – they didn’t know where to go if they had Covid symptoms, how to get a bed, where to get the oxygen. 

Providing oxygen and lifesaving support

Our work in West Bengal focuses on poor and marginalised people. Many of them are dependent on daily wages – fishermen, brick kiln workers, market sellers, labourers, and others. Although they were frightened to come out of their house during the Covid peak, they had no choice if they wanted to earn some money.  

We work with mothers, with young adults, and local leaders to disseminate vital information about Covid-19, like how to protect yourself from Covid, where to go for oxygen, for beds, where to get the vaccination and the Covid-19 protocols to follow. We’ve provided oxygen concentrators to hospitals, to short stay homes for Covid-19 patients and mother and childcare centres.  

Thousands of people lost their lives. Dealing with death was so very difficult; the burial grounds were full, and people couldn’t find space to bury the bodies. It was all so sudden and now people are left with the psychological trauma and the fear of losing other people close to them.  

The children are suffering 

I’m mostly worried about the children. Schools closed, leaving children isolated and putting their mental health and wellbeing at risk. Save the Children worked with children to explain how they can keep themselves safe, about the importance of washing their hands and wearing masks. And we’ve been providing emotional and psychological support for the many children who sadly have lost one or both of their parents due to Covid.  

We can see that Covid has changed many things – many small industries have shut down and thousands of people have lost their livelihoods. Covid goes on, but the biggest challenge now is for people to earn money – they’re struggling with hunger.  

Food baskets for hungry families

To help the hunger problem, we’ve provided food baskets to more than 100,000 people in West Bengal alone. It’s a wholesome balanced diet, with rice, pulses, soya chunks, oils, nuts, semolina, salt, and spices, and enough to feed a family of five for one month. When I meet a family who hasn't cooked for three or four days, and we give them a food basket and then they know they can go home to cook and eat, that's the best feeling.   

And we’ve provided hygiene kits with soaps, sanitary napkins, masks, washing powder and floor cleaners.   

On top of the pandemic, Bengal experienced two cyclones which destroyed several thousands of homes along the coastal areas leaving many families without shelter.  So, we’ve provided temporary shelter kits with tarpaulins, mats and mosquito nets.

It breaks my heart to see how the children from marginalised communities are suffering - with their education, their health, nutrition, and their mental wellbeing. I feel all of us who live in a better situation should offer a hand towards these children who are suffering with everything, but especially with hunger.    

The gratitude I see on people’s faces is something that keeps me going. When I look at these people’s faces, I can’t explain my emotions, but I know when I see them that I’m willing to work for 14 or 15 hours a day. 

With your help, through the DEC appeal, we’ve been able to make sure people have enough food to eat.  

I want to say a really big thank you from everyone here.”  

With your support, vulnerable families in India are being provided with hygiene kits containing soap, masks, and sanitiser and are also receiving food packages. Communities are being reached with Covid-19, hygiene, and sanitation awareness and health facilities are being supported with vital equipment and PPE. 

The DEC Coronavirus Appeal has also supported vulnerable people in Afghanistan, DR Congo, the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen to stay safe through the pandemic.  

Save lives

Help vulnerable communities survive the pandemic