Action Against Hunger Community Mobilizer Savita Pawar follows up with a mother and her children after her recovery from COVID-19.

COVID-19 in India: In Their Own Words, Families Share Their Struggles

As the pandemic cripples the country’s health system and drives hunger, Action Against Hunger teams are providing urgent support.

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.

Asma

Asma with her six-month-old daughter Aayat at her family's home.

Asma with her six-month-old daughter Aayat at her family's home.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.”

Ashwini

Ashwini holding her 5-month-old son Shaurya.

Ashwini holding her five-month-old son Shaurya.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.”

Gudiya

Gudiya with her three kids outside their home.

Gudiya with her kids, one-year-old Samar, five-year-old Aradhya, and seven-year-old Saksham, outside their home.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.

Lockdown restrictions

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.

Anjum

Action Against Hunger Community Mobilizers Kavita and Janhvi visit Anjum at home, following up on the supplies and advice they've provided.

Action Against Hunger Community Mobilizers Kavita and Janhvi visit Anjum at home, following up on the supplies and advice they've provided.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.”

Sayyed

Sayyed with her youngest son, who was recently diagnosed with acute malnutrition.

Sayyed with her youngest son, who was recently diagnosed with acute malnutrition.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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

Azaad outside of his family's home.

Azaad outside of his family's home. His wife and children have left the city to stay with his parents during this second wave of COVID-19.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.”

Rosi

Rosi with her two-year-old son Ayan

Rosi with her two-year-old son Ayan, who is being treated for severe acute malnutrition.

Photo: Sudharak Olwe
for Action Against Hunger,
India

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.

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocate for change, and reach 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.