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Hill of Hope responds to COVID-19 lockdown

From March 22 India has been in lockdown, which has caused serious problems for millions of Indians. Many of India’s workforce are daily labourers, millions of whom move across the different states in search of work. So, from March 22 these people have had no employment, and if they are from interstate, no access to local Govt. welfare handouts. They cannot travel to their home states as there is no transport, public or private of any kind, except for Emergency Relief vehicles for transport of food and medical supplies. As the lockdown continues the situation for these people is becoming more desperate.

From April 13th, with the Lockdown three weeks old, and permission to move about, with the Govt Child Welfare officer in our team, Hill of Hope began distributing food parcels in areas of most need around Hyderabad city.

The first distribution team, gathered around a Hill of Hope vehicle, ready to go.
One of the Directors of Hill of Hope Foundation, Sarah Galbraith, sends off the first distribution team.

The first distribution of 140 food packs, and also Dettol soaps, led to a swamping of our volunteers, and no chance of maintaining the required social distancing. Clearly our response was inadequate, and so on the next distribution day we sent 350 packs resulting in a much more orderly distribution. That particular area is now a Red Zone, so off limits for even aid workers, other than medical personnel.

A more orderly line as people queue for food packets in Hyderabad
Queued people are handed food packets by a Hill of Hope volunteer wearing gloves.

Since that beginning two weeks ago, we have been able to assist over 2000 families in Hyderabad environs, involving over 5 tonnes of foodstuffs. Elsewhere, with wonderful assistance from local volunteers, we have been able to assist over 1200 families in Andhra Pradesh, and around 1000 in West Bengal, as well as financial assistance in some other states in India.

We have had a few visits from the media to our Distribution Points, with several reports coming on regional language TV news:

An aged citizen being handed a rations pack by a Hill of Hope volunteer. A child being handed a food pack by a Hill of Hope volunteer.
The aged and the young.

We are highly reliant on our volunteers in Hyderabad and elsewhere. The young people who have been raised in Moinabad and Shunem projects have been working tirelessly in packing foodstuffs, and, where permits allowed, in distribution to those most in need.

Volunteers distributing rations to the needy.

We have had wonderful co-operation from the State govt. Women and child Welfare Dept, with their officers where necessary, accompanying our volunteers, and arranging police escort where required. They have also arranged special Passes for our two distributioin vehicles, according them “Emergency Govt Vehicle” status, so we can move more freely for purchase and distribution of materials.

Social Distancing as below is important when possible at Distribution Points
People in Murku, West Bengal, maintaining distance from one another while waiting for their turn to receive supplies.
A truck loaded with food supplies
Loading supplies – West Godavari Dt.
Volunteers ready to distribute meal packs
Meal packs ready for distribution – Narsapur, AP

There is still much to be done as various Govt depts are in touch with us to highlight particular areas of need. A letter to hand today, typical of several requests, comes from a District Council in West Bengal, which appreciates our help thus far, but speaks of 4 other villages urgently in need of help for general food rations, and 200 packs of milk and baby food.

A woman with a bag of food that has been provided
A precious food supply
left at the door step

What is supplied in a Ration pack varies a lot in each area, depending on food habits, and what they may have had access to.

A ration pack may contain:

Cooking oil – 1 kg
Dahl (Pulses) – 1 kg
Rawa (crushed wheat) – 1 kg
Sugar – 1 kg
Atta (wholemeal chappati flour) – 1 kg
Rice – 5 kg
Small amount of cash for vegetables or spices etc.

The areas of need may be villages, towns, cities, construction sites. Wherever daily wage earners are. The two videos below are from a colony visited today.