COVID-19  India Project #46675

Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19

by Calcutta Rescue
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Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19
Holistic support for slum dwellers during Covid-19

Omicron spread rapidly across India from the start of this year and here at Calcutta Rescue we again prepared for the worst. It wasn’t clear what impact the new variant would have here, so we reverted to the robust procedures that we developed during the first two Covid waves to keep staff and patients safe while allowing us to continue to provide the vital services on which so many rely.

We checked our stocks of PPE equipment, oxygen cylinders and drugs and reactivated our quick reaction team to provide round-the-clock assistance to anyone who might fall seriously ill. Our team of community health workers have been going through the slums daily to help identify and support people developing the virus. At our clinics, we have limited the numbers attending to a minimum so they are Covid-safe - with consultations done remotely and drugs delivered directly to patients' homes. We have also been working hard to get all our frontline staff and vulnerable patients to have the booster jab.

A massive project in the planning for the last five months, to deliver 3,750 tons of food to the poorest people in Kolkata began last month, coordinated by Calcutta Rescue. Project Arpan, a Citibank social initiative in collaboration with Give India, was formulated to address the issue of food insecurity across communities in the country. Calcutta Rescue, in association with Give India's implementing partner, will enable the provision of dry food rations to 75,000 households from low-income communities in Kolkata. This will benefit over 300,000 individuals residing in 50 of the city's most impoverished locations. It took several months to devise the delivery system, arrange transport and warehouses, and register all 75,000 households who will benefit from the scheme to ensure the right amount of food goes to the right people.

Senior students from our schools were trained to collect the necessary data on a digital app and then were paid to go into the slums to speak to each household. The arrival of Omicron at the start of the year led to a postponement of the start, which meant new delivery methods had to be devised that were safe during a time of high Covid infections.

As the tight hold of the third wave of the Covid pandemic loosened, schools in Kolkata finally opened fully in February after almost two years. Calcutta Rescue Education Projects opened their physical classroom for all students this month. The younger students entered their classrooms bouncing on their feet, all happy smiles. Both centres have reopened, with students initially coming in three times a week, on alternate days, to reduce the risks of catching Covid-19 in the very limited space available. Handwashing and masks are mandatory.

The Education on Wheels teams are still out visiting preschool children in the slums but they will start coming to the centres from the middle of March. While schools across India now face the massive task of trying to re-engage millions of children who dropped out of education during the pandemic, CR’s education team did an incredible job teaching their 650 students online. As a result, the dropout rate in CR over the past two years was zero. In fact, they scored outstanding results in classes 10 and 12. Seven students were awarded The Telegraph School Awards scholarships for outstanding results in academics.

Now, unlike at government schools, learning at Calcutta Rescue is completely blended - a combination of remote, face to face, multimedia, and hands-on activities. This will allow students to have a much richer educational experience, be more involved in the learning process. Providing a lot of the content online will also allow teachers to use class time in a much more stimulating and effective way.

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In the month of August, September and October rhymes, conversation, vocabulary etc were taught online as usual and quickly recapitulated when children attended physical classes at Education on Wheels. Teachers put emphasis on writing skills mainly in case of both preschool and primary class children. New topics were introduced through story-telling and by using teaching aids. Teachers use teaching aids in the bus as well as uploaded new topics by using handmade teaching aids.

For assessing their class standard ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) test was taken for all primary students on basic reading and math skills. It has been noted that CR students are on the higher plane than the national average.

Student attendance is almost 100% in the EOW classes. Maintaining all protocols, the classes are happening regularly from July end till date. We are amazed to note that children love to attend the classes even if it rains incessantly and their area remains waterlogged.

Physical classes have started for the senior students maintaining all Covid protocols. Dry ration distribution for the all the students is done every month. We are providing data recharges to the students for continuing their online classes.

Covid vaccination is being carriend out for all adults in 20 slums. For the people who are below 18 years of age, PCV, HPV and influenza vaccination is being carried out. Normal clinic operations are ongoing in all the 4 clinics.

Apart from these, health awareness sessions and ration distribution, hygiene kit distribution and medicine distributions are going on for all of the Calcutta Rescue registered patients. We have partened with Citi Bank for distributing dry ration to 50000 housholds by December, 2021.

Our handicrafts unit is providing skill training to poor women so that they can start their own entrepreneurship endeavours in their communities to make their both ends meet.

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We have again opened our Education on Wheels project. Our teachers are again going to the slums for teaching the pre-primary students who are not very comfortable with the online classes. The students are picked up in our school bus and taught like a normal classroom following all Covid protocols. Physical classes are still closed following the govt. guidelines. For all other classes, online classes are going on. We are continuing with the distribution of the dry ration along with health and hygiene products to combat the pandemic.

Our clinics have started normal operations following the Covid protocols. Patients remain outside and communicate with their doctor through a plexiglass screen. Patients requiring dressings are being attended to by our wound dresser who sits on the other side of a transparent curtain with cut holes wearing a full PPE suit. Our street medicine programme has also started its normal operations. Along with these, tele-consultation and home delivery of medicines and food packets are continuing.

We are also conducting various types of awareness sessions by our health educators and psychological counselors for the patients and students so that they remain alert during this pandemic situation and are able to cope with all difficulties.

We have just analysed the results of a COVID survey to assess the impact of covid on the lives of our service users, which was conducted across 10 of our slum communities. Sadly:
  • 88% of people are suffering from food insecurity
  • Incomes have reduced by 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels
  • 36% of children have dropped out of government school in the last one year
These figures will worsen following this 2nd wave and associated lockdowns - so your assistance is timely and vital.
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Our clinics have started normal operations following the Covid protocols. Patients remain outside and communicate with their doctor through a plexiglass screen. Patients requiring dressings are being attended to by our wound dresser who sits on the other side of a transparent curtain with cut holes wearing a full PPE suit.
 
Our street medicine programme has also started its normal operations with an addition of a Community Health Worker so that the community reach is maximised. A person from the community is selected and trained to work as a community health worker. This concept is similar to the ASHA programme run by the government in the rural setup.
 
Our education centres are still closed as per the directions from the government. We are continuing with the distribution of the dry ration along with health and hygiene products to combat the pandemic. Online classes are continuing via video calls and WhatsApp for the classes upto 8. With donor money, we have provided smartphones and data plans for many pupils so that they can continue their studies seamlessly. We have also started physical classes for 9 & 10 maintaining all the Covid protocols.
 
We have also started a new project named 'Education on Wheels' for the pre-primary students of the slum areas. Our school bus moves around the slums serving like a mobile classroom and reaching out to non-formal children. The teachers go around in the School vehicle and conduct classes or activity classes for preschoolers inside the bus maintaining physical distancing. Students get fun worksheets for revision of syllabus. This project has started from December, 2020.
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Present status:

Since the beginning of the unlock period, our 4 fixed clinics have adapted to the ‘new normal’ and gradually began operations, to provide services to its beneficiaries. The patients are receiving treatment and our staff are educating them on healthy as well as hygienic habits so that they are well aware of the current situation.

Calcutta Rescue has 10 doctors and around 50 medical staff operating in its clinics. All these staff are in direct interaction with the patients. We ran a number of training sessions with staff so they fully understood what they needed to do to keep themselves and their patients safe.

We physically reorganised the clinics into green and red zones and installed perspex shields at key points to provide a physical barrier between patients and staff. To stay safe we needed to reduce the number of people attending the clinics by three quarters. So we retrained all our doctors to do telephone consultations, with only those who had to collect medicine, food or be examined by a doctor being invited to come to the clinic. We also decided to stagger the reopening of the clinics so that we could focus on each in turn to ensure they were operating safely.

Status of Calcutta Rescue clinics:

We started reopening the clinics in June, first Tala Park, then Chitpur and then Nimtala. Our DOTS clinic is up and running and our street medicine programme have also started running normally around the city. Since the system started doctors have not had to carry out a single face-to-face examination inside the clinic. Patients remain outside and communication with their doctor is through a plexiglass screen. Patients requiring dressings are being attended to by our wound dresser who sits on the other side of a transparent curtain with cut holes and who wears a full PPE suit, mask, visor, gloves, and shoe coverings. Our schools remain closed but we continue to supply the children’s families with food, vitamins and medicines to ensure they remain healthy, and teachers continue with the online classes with the pupils using their mobile phones.

Request for more funds:

Buying PPE, installing safety barriers, supplying food and sanitary kits to patients and schoolchildren all costs money - and this is set to continue for an indefinite period. We have provided smartphones for 50 pupils who had no access to one. Without the interaction with teachers they provide, many of our youngsters are likely to fall further behind in their education and may fall out of the system altogether.

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Organization Information

Calcutta Rescue

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @CalcuttaRescue
Project Leader:
Priya Ghosh
Kolkata, West Bengal India

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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