WOW | WOW Inspire
FIGHTNG HUNGER IN UNCERTIAN TIMES
Text: Ankita Jain
It’s in the hard and difficult times that what one does matters. As the lockdown stretches, many people have been left without livelihoods and the government relief yet to reach them. Many among us are not fortunate to have a safe roof over our heads or a warm meal waiting at the table. Many fear that hunger will take them before the virus. The stories are heartbreaking and leave you questioning whether this should even be happening.
But behind every dark cloud is light waiting to burst through. There are a few among us who do not just read the news but actually respond. These are the people who put others above themselves, who feel the compulsion and the need to reach out a helping hand where it is needed most. They are ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. WOW shares what some of them are doing to ensure a warm meal for those in need.
Led by Lily Thapa, Women for Human Rights is feeding hundreds of people every day through its Foodbank initiative in Budhanilkantha. “The meal crisis is being faced by the poor, marginal workers, daily wage earners, students and migrants across the nation due to the lockdown. We are providing one time meal to families who are struggling to eat,” says Lily. She started the initiative on April 15 with 50 food packages. Today the number has grown to 1600. “The demand is increasing day by day. After the lockdown crossed one month, daily wage earners, students, older people and many others are finding it difficult to get even a meal a day,” she shares.
Initially WHR strived to comfort people through food relief kits. Lily wasn’t satisfied with the relief kit distribution as it was difficult to identify people who really needed the ration, and many even lacked utensils to cook food at home. After much contemplation, WHR collaborated with the municipality ward chairpersons and identified this support. “The Chairperson informed us about the number of cooked food packages required in their respective wards and we helped deliver it,” Lily explains.
Every morning around 15-16 volunteers assemble to cook nutritious food for thousands of people in Chhahari Bhawan. The food distribution takes place from 4-6 pm but people start queuing since 3 pm maintaining social distancing. “We are acting as a takeaway platform. This way hygiene and social distancing both are kept intact,” Lily claims.
She shares a story that touched her heart, “During our initial days, a five year old child used to visit every day to collect the packaged meal. We were amazed and out of curiosity asked about his parents and whereabouts. He replied that his mother is bed-ridden as she recently delivered a baby and there is no one to cook at home.” After this incident, Lily made sure that the food is delivered at his doorstep every day.
She feels blessed that her initiative has been supported by people from all walks of life. Whether the nearby shopkeeper, neighbours, friends or people who believe in serving the needy, she says the support has been enormous. “We will be feeding the needy till the lockdown exists,” she assures adding that the single women groups are feeding people in different districts of the country including Pokhara and Dharan. Since March 20, the Food Bank initiative is temporarily put on hold as WHR has handed over the Chhahari buildings in all districts to the government to be used as quarantine zones.
Since March 20, the Food Bank initiative is temporarily put on hold as WHR has handed over the Chhahari buildings in all districts to the government to be used as quarantine zones..
Juju Kaji, Founder of Heart Beat was one of the first activists in the capital to provide the homeless and daily wage earners with nutritious, cooked food and drinking water post lockdown. “There are many who do not have the option of stepping out to earn their daily wage,” says Juju.
Initially he was providing a standardised package of rations that can sustain a family of four for about a week in the areas where daily wage earners are located. Later, he began serving cooked meal packages and water. “I still distribute ration packages wherever required,” he shares.
Every day Juju Kaji feeds nearly 350 people. He says that the real need was witnessed after the country crossed the mark of one month under lockdown. “People are more desperate now. They are running out of money and essential food items,” he states.
The meal gets readied in the Dallu Centre and is distributed in different parts of the city between 3-6 pm. Teku, Basantpur, Thamel, Bhaktapur are among the places that have been covered under his initiative.
“We serve rice, dal, vegetables, egg and a bottle of water,” he shares.
Helping Juju raise funds is Dr. Garima Shrestha, Founder of She Organisation. “Garima contacted me via social media and offered to help in raising funds. I was overwhelmed with the gesture,” says Juju. Garima says, “In the initial week we collected Rs 50,000 through eSewa.”
Though people are coming ahead to support his initiative, Juju recognises that he will require more support in the coming days. “Whether cash or kind, we value any help provided. We want to run this initiative till the lockdown ends and feed as many people as we are capable of,” he says.
Chirag Goyal is the Executive Director of Goyal Group. He was praised for his initiative even before the lockdown began and he offered his vacant house in Sifal to anybody who may require to stay in it for the 14 days of quarantine. Soon after the lockdown, Chirag started to help daily wage earners and self employed workers with essentials. “I was inspired by the ongoing food relief campaign in India,” he shares.
A simple post on Facebook helped him reach both the needy and the supporters. “Many friends came on board to support and guided us to make a beneficiary list,” he shares. The initiative started by supporting people living in Ratopul and Kalopul. Later, he extended it to Takeshwor Nagarpalika, Dhobi Chaur, Ganesh Mandir, Khusibu and Chhetrapati.
Initially the team delivered rations right at the doorstep of those in need avoiding direct contact. Later they started to handover the packages from a common point in the locality. “This saved time and we were able to help more people,” he says.
The ration package contains five kgs of rice, two kgs of daal, one litre soya oil, one kg sugar, one kg salt, 100 gms of tea, 100 gms of mixed spices, four packets of biscuits, two packets of instant noodles and two soap bars. “The package is thoughtfully designed to sustain a family of four for a week,” he informs. What started with 10-20 packages is now 70 packages every day.
Kathmandu based Sano Paila, an NGO, is feeding cooked meals to thousands of vulnerable people in the eastern Terai through Feeding Nepal Campaign. The NGO provides meals twice a day. “We are running the campaign in Birgunj and Janakpur where the number of daily wagers are more,” says Jai Shah, Head of Operations, Sano Paila.
They started the campaign in Birgunj on March 28 and started feeding 400-500 people daily while in Janakpur they started on April 8 with 200-300 people respectively. “We ask them to bring their own utensils and send them with cooked meal which is sufficient for a family of four. This results in lessening the crowd,” Jai shares. So far they have crossed the mark of 20,000 meals served. They have also started serving two meals a day in Siraha district. “There are many Dalits in this district and currently their state is vulnerable,” he says. Meanwhile, the NGO is feeding nutritions meals, four times a day, to 110 COVID 19 patients in Birgunj.
In the first phase, the NGO was dipping into its savings to continue relief work. Today they are being supported by various industrialists in Birgunj and individual donors. “We are collecting funds from platforms like Give2Asia and eSewa,” he claims.
Besides, Sano Paila is running an integrated Help Desk in Parsa with Nepal Police, disinfecting hospitals, police stations and other public areas, and supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing booths. “We are also providing emergency medicines and have entertained 1000 requests so far. We have issued two helpline numbers for this: 9844982790 and 984498299,” he shares.
WOREC is supporting with relief packages to pregnant women, lactating mothers, elderly women, women with disabilities and women in most vulnerable situation in Udayapurgadi, Triyuga, Belaka and Rautamai of Udayapur district.
The NGO started the Sneha campaign from April 23 and so far has distributed packages to 320 women. “In collaboration with the local government, the relief package is delivered to the women,” says Sunita Mainali, District Coordinator, Udayapur, WOREC.
The package comprises 25 kgs rice, two kgs lentil, one kg chickpea, one litre cooking oil, one kg salt, six soap bars, one kg detergent and two-metre cotton fabric as sanitary pad. “The package is designed in a way that it can support a family of four for a month,” explains Sunita. Additionally, 2400 sanitary pads were provided to women in Kailali through the municipality.
Sunita says the condition of women in Coronavirus affected areas is miserable. In one such encounter, she met a pregnant lady who hadn’t eaten a proper meal in three days. “Her family was living on the food given to livestock,” she shares.
Currently, WOREC is reaching women in most vulnerable situation with relief packages in Siraha, Udayapur, Sunsari, Sindhupalchowk and Dang districts. Besides, WOREC is continuously broadcasting PSA on self-care and information on psychosocial counselling through radios in Dhanusha, Siraha, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Udayapur, Dang, Sindhuli, Kailali and Rukum districts. Radio messages on gender based violence is also aired. The PSA are being broadcasted in Nepali and local language in provinces as most of the information was previously available only in either Nepali or English.
HINDU SWAYAM SEVAK SANGH NEPAL
Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, the Nepal chapter of the RSS started feeding those in need from March 27. “We were feeding cooked meals to 800 people in the initial days and gradually we have increased the capacity to 3500-4000,” says Pramod Kumar Agrawal, an active member of the organisation.
The meal is prepared in Pashupati Gaushala Dharamshala and distributed in areas like Jadibuti, Gaire Gaun, etc. “Most daily wage earners reside in these areas. In Gaire Gaun itself we feed around 1500 people,” tells Pramod. The meal comprises of rice, daal and vegetables.
“There are numerous labourers who couldn’t go home before the lockdown was announced and are now living on the daily meals we serve,” he shares.
They are determined to serve the needy till the lockdown ends.
AYUSHMA RANA YAKTHUMBA
Ayushma Rana Yakthumba is the Founder of ST Group which deals in luxury gift packaging. Though her company is majorly suffering due to the lockdown, Ayushma is utilising her profits from early this year to provide relief packages to 3100 families. “Initially my target and budget was for 100 families but it kept on increasing as the lockdown extended,” says Ayushma who started her campaign on April 1.
When asked how it all began, a mother of two, Ayushma recalls, “It started with a phone call from one of our staff in charge of a school canteen run by my husband. He informed me about the ration in the canteen and the needy people in his area.” After the call ended, Ayushma immediately made up her mind to visit Nakhu where her staff resides and donated the required rations. The next day, Ayushma designed a relief package comprising six kgs of rice, three kgs of dal, two kgs of beaten rice, one kg sugar, one packet salt, three packets of instant noodles and few snack items. “The idea was to make a package of Rs 1000 which is sufficient for a family of four for a week,” she states. So far, Ayushma has distributed food relief packages in the areas of Kirtipur, Bhaisepati and Satdobato.
While distributing the relief package, she encountered a labourer whose wife was a new mother. “I might not be able to forget this incident ever in my life. The wife of the daily wage labourer asked me to take away her child as she wasn’t able to feed him. My heart was broken,” she recalls. The incident made Ayushma design a relief package for new mothers as well. “Besides the normal relief package, I added milk powder, nutrition supplements, ghee, eggs and other nutritious items required for a new mother. And we made sure that the food relief package for new mothers sustain for at least a month,” she says.
Starting with her own savings, Ayushma later requested people to contribute through her Facebook post. “I was amazed to see how friends of friends and family came together to support my campaign,” she shares.