In Patharpratima region of the Sunderbans, the closest hospital is 1-3 hours away, requiring travel by boat and motorised rickshaws. Beds and doctors are in short supply here, and facilities for COVID testing are scarce and further away. Subimal Bera from Purbachitamanipur Chetana Sangha, an AID partner tells us that at the moment COVID cases are low here, but there have been a few deaths already. The recent elections have added to their worries, since there has been an influx of outsiders, and the quarantine facilities that were set up last year to house returning migrant workers have now closed.
Chetana Sangha is now working fast to spread awareness about COVID and prevent a surge in cases in the 25 villages here. They have conducted awareness activities in local markets / main village centers with loudspeakers in totos to emphasize masking, sanitising, distancing. They have found people to be receptive to the awareness program and start self-enforcing mask wearing. Chetana Sangha is working to revive the local quarantine facility through the Panchayat and is also providing informal counselling and mental support for people scared of the virus. They are looking to distribute awareness information in the form of pamphlets that can be put up in public and shared among volunteers.
Chetana Sangha’s regular work promoting sustainable agriculture and supporting local farmers by selling their organic produce weekly in Kolkata has been suspended due to the pandemic adding to the economic distress. This region had faced the devastating cyclone Amphan only last year, and the subsequent failure in rains has affected farming and inland fisheries. The economic impact of last year’s lockdown causing migrant workers to return also persists. Chetana Sangha anticipates a need for food support to tide over the impending hunger crisis, and plan for distribution of baby chicken, fruit plant saplings to help sustain livelihoods.
As Subimal da says, “Survival is the individual’s burden now, so they can’t panic and keep doing the right thing that health experts recommend”. Support Chetana Sangha’s efforts by donating to AID’s COVID relief efforts.
Chetana Sangha supports sustainable agriculture by working with ~6000 farmers in the Sunderbans and selling local organic produce in Kolkata. They have been involved in relief efforts after cyclone Amphan hit the region last year and currently working to mitigate the COVID crisis. You can read more about their past efforts here.AID Responds to COVID Donate to COVID Relief Fund