Working in Rural Communities During COVID-19

An older man in a green turban and green shirt sits on the ground in India

Earlier this month, India overtook Brazil for holding the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. On September 17th, it was reported that India has 51,18,253 cases. The cases are spreading at an uncontrollable rate throughout the country, putting immense strain on the nation’s medical services and essential workers. Initially, India’s government implemented one of the world’s strictest responses to COVID-19, however, by May, the government began to loosen restrictions and has continued to do so in an effort to revive the economy. 

Throughout this crisis, HelpAge has been working with our Global Network Partner GRAVIS to provide critical response and advocacy for older people in the rural regions of India. Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti, or GRAVIS, is an accredited nongovernmental organization that works within the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Bundelkhand regions of India. These regions are considerably impoverished states within Uttar Pradesh, each having its own individual problems. The Thar Desert region struggles with water scarcity as the most “densely populated desert ecosystem in the world”. Uttarakhand and the Bundelkhand region are incredibly mountainous and have underdeveloped medical and economic services. In terms of COVID-19 response, GRAVIS has been conducting relief targeted at women, the elderly, differently-abled people, marginal cultivators, and their families in rural regions. Over the past 5 months, they have provided hygiene kits, food, medical support, and hosted educational seminars for thousands of people.

In May, HelpAge and GRAVIS undertook the responsibility for conducting a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) in Rajasthan. They collected data from 88 older people over the age of 50 in Rajasthan. The findings included that 55% of older people cannot afford personal protective equipment (PPE) that could be critical for protecting themselves from COVID-19.

GRAVIS shared the following update with HelpAge USA in early September, 

“Despite a clearly illustrated need of supporting and protecting older people, disabled, and marginalized rural communities in remote areas, the efforts seem to be inadequate addressing their needs. In many areas, vulnerable rural communities are isolated and are facing food and water shortages, lack of hygiene supplies, as well as are not fully aware of the threat they are facing.”

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