The second wave of the pandemic in India has unleashed an unprecedented catastrophe for all its citizens, devastating an already fragile healthcare system. The situation is exacerbating rapidly as infections spread to rural communities where access to critical facilities (oxygen supplies, ambulances, and ICU care) is limited, if not almost non-existent.

According to the Rapid Rural Community Response to COVID-19 coalition (RCRC), the main challenges faced by rural communities amid the pandemic are:

  • Lack of testing facilities and delay in reports, resulting in the increased possibility of further infections

  • Lack of essential medicines and lack of facilities at hospitals

  • Vaccine hesitancy, as well as an inadequate vaccination infrastructure

  • Reverse migration with limited monitoring and testing systems in place (unlike last year)

  • Fear of lockdown and loss of income and livelihood sources

These are big challenges so we’re understandably concerned but that concern must turn to unified action – we must join forces as a sector to support India and, in particular, rural communities in India, in getting through this wave.

How is OCA supporting partners in India?

Our team in India has been in close contact with Implementing Partners and Contributors’ local staff, receiving regular updates on the harsh realities faced by all our partners and farmers on the ground – many of whom have family who are infected or affected by the pandemic.

We’re taking action to support our partners by allocating increased funds to our Farm Programme Workshop Kits for the forthcoming 2021/22 cotton season. We’re in discussion with our partners and we’re keen to take their advice as to what supplies they most urgently need to best support their work, health and safety on the ground, so we can make these resources available to them.

We are also increasing the necessary flexibility of our operational processes. We know validation will be impacted as most field visits and data validation planning have been postponed due to lockdown measures, so we are supporting partners in switching to remote validations based on the health and safety guidelines provided by the government. Above all else, our team is, and will remain, in regular contact with all our partners to ensure that we are supporting them and monitoring the situation so we can take appropriate action when needed.

How can Contributors support their partners in India? 

  • Keep in close contact: Reach out to your partners and directly ask them what support they need.

  • Extend financial support: Help partners by providing funds for vaccination efforts, PPE, additional hygiene measures and information awareness-raising in rural communities.

  • Maintain your commitments: Do not walk away from your Farm Programme commitments, from last season or the current one, nor any other orders for that matter.

  • Be patient and flexible: Many partners are working with reduced staff, so anticipate delays in response in the current signing of contracts and provide flexibility on delivery timelines and auditing modes where possible.

  • Amplify their efforts: Encourage your partners and suppliers to share their own ideas and best practices for joint relief efforts and spread these within your own networks and communities so they can get the financial support and traction they need.

How can the OCA Community help?

The OCA Community focuses on putting farmers first. That’s why we would like to direct you to initiatives providing targeted rural support in India. Here are two great organisations we will be supporting which we encourage you to donate to as well:

Rapid Rural Community Response to COVID-19: RCRC is a coalition of more than 60 organisations, providing support to rural communities, particularly those in remote villages, serving over 110 districts of 15 states. RCRC members implement rural livelihoods programmes at the last mile so they have a clear sense of the situation on the ground and an understanding of what needs to be done immediately and in the medium-term to provide support to rural communities, particularly those in remote villages. The RCRC members did exemplary work last year in very difficult geographies, providing relief and livelihood support to millions of people affected by the pandemic.

Swasth.appSwasth Alliance (a not-for-profit alliance of over 150+ reputed healthcare organisations) and Feeding India (a not-for-profit run by Zomato) are working towards the goal of sourcing and distributing 50,000 oxygen concentrators. These oxygen concentrators will be donated across India free of cost, largely to various public health institutions and NGOs working for public health. MyGov, a government of India initiative, is supporting the goal by ensuring proper coordination with various stakeholders for the most optimal utilisation of the oxygen concentrators. This is the largest civil society initiative currently providing oxygen to save lives.

The pandemic has shown how interconnected the world truly is and how the current crisis can have implications for everyone globally. We urge you to take unified action where you can. We all have an immediate sphere of influence, and that sphere is magnified – and can be global – when we collaborate and act as one.