Struggling Tribal Families in Odisha Provided Relief by SOS Children’s Villages to Cope with Lockdown

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Bhubaneswar, June 30, 2020: More than 150 underprivileged families from tribal communities – including 450 women and children – have been provided relief by SOS Children’s Villages in the Bhubaneswar Block of Khordha District (Odisha) to help them survive the COVID-19 crisis. The much-needed assistance has come at an opportune time when their menfolk – all migrant daily-wage labourers – are stranded in far-away cities due to the lockdown and unable to return home or render any help.

The SOS Children’s Villages team assisted the families to avail of government schemes for food and financial assistance that they were unaware of. It also distributed hygiene kits among the families and created awareness about COVID-19. The SOS team members also managed to prevent child abandonment by working to ensure that these families do not break apart in this hour of crisis.

Said Secretary General of SOS Children’s Villages of India, Sudarshan Suchi, “The lockdown severely disrupted regular income-generation activities of these families of landless migrant labourers. Many had to discontinue their petty businesses and any kind of work. The children were badly affected. With no income source, there was an acute scarcity of food and other essential provisions at their homes. Their emotional and psychological needs were immense, as they felt vulnerable and isolated. Their daily routine was halted due to the strict lockdown norms. The children were also fearful of this infectious pandemic and felt helpless with no guidance.”

SOS Children’s Villages team reached out to all the 150 families to provide 10 essential ration items to meet their urgent food needs for at least 15 days. Each of them was provided 2 kg dal, 2 litres mustard oil, 1kg sugar, 1 kg salt, 1 kg beaten rice, 1 kg suji, 1 pack of soyabean badi, 2 packets of biscuits, 4 kg potatoes and 2 kg onions. In addition, they were also helped to avail government schemes under which they got 5 kg rice per person and INR 1,000 cash benefit per family; Rs 500 cash benefit per month for all Jan Dhan account holders, and Rs 1,500 for every MNERGA cardholder.

The hygiene kit given to each family was meant to meet the safety needs of members, especially children. This included four pieces of face masks, bottles of Dettol, phenyl and handwash, four pieces of soap and two sets of towels. A team of doctors and nurses educated the migrant families on social distancing norms, wearing of masks and handwashing. After counselling, the communities decided to restrict the entry of outsiders to their villages as a precaution against the spread of the pandemic.

Four women tailors from the affected community were asked to prepare face masks. Each of them could stitch 25-30 face masks daily. These were all purchased by SOS Children’s Villages and distributed among all the community members as part of the hygienic kit. Other parts of the kit such as soap, handwash, etc., too were purchased from small shops being run by families. This purchase-and-distribute model of SOS Children’s Villages not only created additional income for the families; it also took care of their food and hygiene needs during this pandemic. Families were also guided by the SOS team to grow vegetables in empty spaces around their modest houses. More than 20 per cent of the families developed kitchen gardens for growing spinach and other vegetables for self-use or selling.

Sudarshan Suchi further added, “These are testing times for the whole nation. The migrant families are the worst affected. One way to support them is to ensure they get some basic income and enough food and do not contract the COVID-19 infection. Their foremost challenge is to continue providing adequately for their children, and SOS Children’s Villages is supporting them fully in this. We are determined to ensure that children do not lose out to this pandemic or otherwise.”