Although the Covid-19 epidemic has slowed in Europe and North America, South Asia has seen a worrying jump in cases, particularly in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The situation has made it especially difficult for the most vulnerable individuals to access health care and humanitarian aid.
India: the world’s fourth worst-affected country
According to the World Health Organization, Covid-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Out of 565,000 confirmed cases, more than 330,000 were recorded in India, the world’s fourth worst-affected country.
Two powerful typhoons: Amphan and Nisarga
On 13 May, India and Bangladesh were also hit by Typhoon Amphan, affecting 71 million people, mainly in West Bengal, and Odisha in India. India was hit by another typhoon, Nisarga, on 3 June. Due to social distancing rules, lack of space in evacuation centers, and other factors, the Covid-19 crisis further complicated evacuation efforts. Natural disasters considerably increase vulnerability during an epidemic.
India: risk prevention
The situation is particularly worrying in India, where more than 330,000 people have been affected by the epidemic. Above 70% of people with disabilities have experienced problems due to the lockdown and travel restrictions, including financial issues, difficulties accessing services, food, and the like . According to the ILO (International Labor Organization) , as a result of the epidemic, some 400 million workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling deeper into poverty. They include more than 100 million migrant workers in India who have lost their jobs due to the lockdown and been forced to return to their region of origin, depriving their families of sometimes vital financial support. The situation is therefore likely to further increase inequalities in a country with a population of 1.3 billion, and more than 190 million undernourished people.
Humanity & Inclusion ( HI) is currently identifying the needs of people with disabilities in India and, in partnership with SPHERE INDIA, trains local organizations to consider these needs in their projects. HI has also translated Covid-19 prevention messages into sign language.
Bangladesh: rehabilitation and psychological support
In Bangladesh, more than 90,000 cases of contamination have been reported, although the actual figure is likely to be higher, given the country’s limited testing capacity.
According to the World Food Program, around a quarter of the population (more than 160 million people) is food insecure, and one in three children suffer stunted growth due to acute malnutrition.
The lockdown is likely to have a disastrous social and economic impact.
In Bangladesh, including in the Rohingya refugee camps, HI continues to provide rehabilitation and psychological support, and socio-economic support (through livestock breeding schemes, cash transfers, etc.) to more than 300 families. HI also remotely assists some 1,400 people with disabilities, sharing advice on their sexual and reproductive lives. The organization trains partner organizations to take the needs of people with disabilities into account in their projects.
In response to rumors currently circulating in Rohingya refugee camps, the organization provides local people with information on the risk of contamination and how to protect themselves from it. Lastly, HI helps transport equipment to remote areas. The organization has supplied humanitarian organizations with 169 trucks and transported 653 tons of humanitarian supplies to refugee camps and storage centers.
Pakistan: food distribution and awareness-raising
The situation is very worrying in Pakistan. There has been a significant increase in the number of recorded cases (more than 140,000) and deaths in recent weeks. Lockdown measures have not been implemented.
HI continues to operate in Pakistan. A project providing support to health centers in Afghan refugee camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has been adapted by raising the Covid-19 risk awareness of health unit staff in refugee camps and local communities.
HI has also distributed food to the most vulnerable people, including children and young women with disabilities.