This project provides emergency food and medicine for the marginalised ultra-poor families in Kolkata's squatter communities. Living in makeshift shelters beside open sewers and railway tracks, many survive by rag picking: collecting, sorting and selling waste from the streets. Everyone depends on the precarious informal economy. They are illiterate, malnourished and despised. Access to emergency aid enables the young to stay healthy and provides essential care for the elderly.
Street and slum dwellers are exposed to disease through their occupation as well as their living conditions. Medicines are expensive and when someone falls sick, the family can end up hungry and in debt. Every small setback is a disaster for a vulnerable family. Children drop out of school and go rag picking because they are hungry. This community desperately needs help to overcome crises so that families can stay well and keep their children in school.
This project provides the funds for emergency medical and food aid for families in crisis. If a parent falls sick or dies; if there is flood or fire; if an elderly person can no longer support herself; or in any other emergency the community can apply for funds to get the family through the crisis and back on its feet again. The initiative is run by Tiljala SHED but led by the community members.
Hunger and disease lead to a cycle of despair. By enabling the community to help its own members through crises, this project promotes community cohesion, keeps the able bodied in work and the children in education. The community will rely on its own leaders rather than depend directly on an NGO. Ultimately the community itself will provide the funds leading to a long term sustainable programme.