The delta variant wave of COVID-19 hit India harder than almost anywhere else in the world. At one point, India accounted for at least one out of every three new COVID-19 cases globally. The pandemic brought life to a standstill.
Most of the people affected by the lockdowns and restrictions were some of the most vulnerable in Indian society. People such as daily wage labourers, migrant workers, people already vulnerable because of poverty, and households who lost their breadwinners were left with little or no income to purchase food for their households.
As the delta case count rapidly mounted, EFICOR, an established Christian relief, development and training organization, stepped in to deliver a complex, multi-layered project involving food assistance, cash transfers, cash for work, vaccination and COVID risk communication in Jharkhand, Bihar and Rajasthan states. Sixteen funding organizations from around the world rallied to support EFICOR’s life-saving work including Foodgrains Bank through member Tearfund Canada.
Kuki Rokham, Lead for Training and Resource Mobilization for EFICOR, says the impact of the delta wave was devastating because of the severe nature of the illness and the many deaths.
“There was desperation around the lack of oxygen and hospital beds especially in cities like Delhi,” says Rokham. “Our own staff were directly affected, including the death of one staff.”
EFICOR quickly put a COVID response team in place and worked to promote COVID-19 prevention practices. They also started identifying people who had no ability to access food. To track their progress, their staff relied heavily on digital tools and technology like never before.
“We were involved in the largest ever cash transfer we have done so far in our history,” says Rokham. “In many relief interventions we have done cash for work, but direct cash transfers have not been the norm.”
In Bihar state in east India, 25-year old Reena Devi and her husband Sanoj Majhi are both disabled and dependent on other family members. Majhi’s parents are daily wage workers, but the pandemic lockdown halted all their income. Devi sought help and discovered EFICOR was providing assistance in her community. Within a week, the family received cash in their bank account and after that, received two more installments to buy groceries and other necessary items for her family.
“I am so happy and thankful to the EFICOR team for helping us when we were in distress,” says Devi.
This article was published in the spring 2022 edition of Breaking Bread.