COVID-19’s second wave is having a devastating impact on India. The country has recorded nearly thirty million cases of the virus and its health system is struggling to cope. Hospitals face extreme shortages of beds, oxygen supplies, life support equipment, and medicine.
The crisis will put an enormous strain on nutrition services that treat children for life-threatening hunger. If malnutrition rises, vulnerable groups, including pregnant and new mothers and children under the age of five, will be most at risk.
Action Against Hunger’s community mobilizers offer support and counselling to families impacted by the pandemic, including by providing food baskets and raising Covid-19 awareness. Our teams also offer guidance to mothers on healthy nutrition and proper breastfeeding practices.
Meet people in Mumbai, India’s largest city, as they tell us how the pandemic has changed their lives.
Mothers living through a pandemic
The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have made life tough for pregnant or new mothers in Mumbai. Many have experienced feelings of anxiety and depression while caring for young babies.
25-year-old Asma’s third pregnancy took an enormous toll on her health. As she recovers from her pregnancy, her family has also struggled to make ends meet during the lockdown restrictions. Her husband, Moinuddin, is a tailor and now weaves masks for a living, but the family still barely manages to make ends meet.
“It was only due to the constant support from the Action Against Hunger community mobilizers that I was able to learn how I should deal with my post-pregnancy issues and what I should eat to stay healthy.”
32-year-old Ashwini had a tough pregnancy. She was extremely anxious and had additional health complications, such as swelling of her legs. After giving birth, Ashwini felt constantly paranoid – a feeling brought on from living through a pandemic.
“I remember calling the community mobilizer at night once when I had developed a slight fever and cold. I was worried I would infect my baby as I was breastfeeding.”
When 26-year-old Gudiya tested positive for COVID-19, she quarantined alone, away from her family. As a breastfeeding mother, Gudiya was worried about ensuring that her youngest son Samar received the nutrition he needed to continue to grow.
To support women like Gudiya, our community mobilizers regularly stay in touch with mothers over the phone and guide them during difficult periods. Last year, we worked with more than 40,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, providing support to help them properly feed their young children and deal with the pandemic. We also offer psychological support to families through phone outreach.
Life for communities in Mumbai dealing with the pandemic is tough. While lockdowns are necessary to control the virus, many families have lost the ability to earn an income and barely have enough money to afford food.
26-year-old Anjum Nisar Khan is a mother of four children, with another on the way. Action Against Hunger’s community mobilizers are providing her family with emergency food and helping her to receive medical treatment.
“Life has been difficult for us since the pandemic hit the country. With my husband’s job uncertainty and several mouths to feed, survival becomes a task.”
28-year-old Sayyed, a mother of two children, was worried that her youngest was starting to lose weight. Our team diagnosed her son with moderate acute malnutrition.
“The pandemic and strict lockdown restrictions have dealt a heavy blow – not only on our children’s physical health but on their mental health, too.”
Azaad sent his wife, Nazma, and their two children to stay with her parents in Punjab. It had become extremely difficult for them to survive in the city, especially with the newly imposed lockdown.
“For now, I’m living off meager savings. On bad days, we manage to get the ration kits like the food basket Action Against Hunger provides us.”
Before the lockdown in 2020, Rosi and her husband, Mohammad, were making ends meet to support their four children. But the factory where Mohammed worked shut down, and their income dried up – they face a similar situation now. "The financial troubles pinched us so hard that some days we all had to sleep hungry. It is the same this year.”
As they struggled to feed their children, their youngest son, Ayan, became malnourished. Action Against Hunger’s community mobilizers are providing treatment and counselling to help him regain his health. “I was desperately seeking help. I have been working harder this time so that my kids don’t sleep hungry. I’m just glad that his health is improving.”
Action Against Hunger’s response to the pandemic in India
Action Against Hunger is supporting vulnerable families, local authorities, and the health system in India.
So far we’ve provided:
- More than 210 tons of emergency food to families in need
- More than 10,000 PPE kits to health centers
- Nearly 250,000 masks, gloves, and sanitizers to frontline medical workers
We’re also providing nutrition counselling and mental health support to families as we continue to raise awareness about how to prevent the virus through masks, healthy hygiene practices, and social distancing.