Listen: Dignity Freedom Network ceo Kate says “We’re telling the story as best we can in this time”
Every country around the world may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but for those living in poverty in India the impact of the crisis is acute.
The crisis has amplified pre-existing challenges that charitable aid organisations like Dignity Freedom Network (DFN) are trying to rectify.
“Life for those living in poverty in India is never easy,” Dignity Freedom Network ceo Kate said.
“Many of the women and men work for as little as two dollars a day; they clean houses, collect garbage… and they don’t have the option to work from home with these kinds of jobs.
“They also don’t have the option of practicing social distancing; they live in squalor, and the little income they have been earning is gone. The slums are just a breeding ground for coronavirus, so it’s really difficult for them.
“Many actually fear dying from starvation more than they fear dying from COVID-19.”
In addition to their routine programs, DFN has been running a widespread awareness campaign about the coronavirus, and addressing misinformation about it in the slums and regional communities.
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“[Our teams] are teaching about hand-washing and sanitising and a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about here in Australia as well,” Kate said.
“With the food shortage, we’ve done a lot of food distribution as well, particularly introducing high-nutritional supplements so that even if they’ve [only got rice] they can add something nutritious to that.”
The organisation has also developed a tele-medicine service, which means the staff are better equipped to help people, and they can take some of the burden from an already under-resourced healthcare system.
Explaining the situation local teams are facing, Kate shared the story of a pregnant woman in New Dehli, who went into labour but sadly “was turned away from eight hospitals in 15 hours, and died in the back of an ambulance in her husbands arms”.
“COVID-19 has just overwhelmed the health system; it’s overwhelmed the hospitals and they’re just not coping,” she said.
Kate said the unrelenting nature of the situation has also been hard on the organisations field staff too.
“Our teams are just exhausted. They get up day after day going into the slums and regional areas… and see the infection rates growing.
“India now has the third highest rates of coronavirus in the world, but the numbers are massively underreported… and they’re not revealing the full extent of the issue.”
In the midst of the pandemic, DFN are also trying to follow up on cases of young girls going missing during the crisis, and continue their work with the Jogini woman and girls – a section of the population who are dedicated to temple gods, and forced into a life of sex slavery.
“We empower them to leave the practice,” Kate said.
“We provide them with health care… and do a lot of counselling, assuring them they’re created in God’s image, and that they have intrinsic value… We want to help them find hope and have their dignity restored.”
To help their efforts continue, Dignity Freedom Network is inviting people to attend their online ‘Hope for the Jogini Girls Dinner‘ – a normally national event that’s been restricted by COVID-19.
Kate said, “We’re telling the story as best we can in this time”, and encourages individuals and churches to attend the interactive event.
Dinners will be held on Thursday 10 and Saturday 12 September. Registrations now open.