India has been put in lockdown in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. People are forced to stay indoors, but for many parents of the children going to our Duniya Foundation school this is hardly an option. The majority of the adults living in Nagwa have jobs as day laborers: rickshaw-cyclists, streets vendors, garbage collectors, domestic servants or construction workers. And the harsh reality of India is: a day without work means no income, and thus no food.

Most fathers or mothers in Nagwa have an average of five mouths to feed and will run out of food in just a few days. The immediate and inevitable consequence of the lockdown is that most families will run out of food in the next few days.

The people of Nagwa don’t have the luxury of pensions, sick leave, paid leave or any kind of insurance. There is no support for them and by far most of them don’t have bank accounts, because they have always relied on cash to meet their daily needs.

Although the coronavirus is a disaster affecting the whole world, our solidarity lies with the families of our school children as well as the lonely elderly who join us every Saturday, and so we will try and organize an emergency fund. In total, we aim to support 127 families the coming weeks, possibly even months. At present, it’s still uncertain how we can help. We are in daily contact with our staff in Varanasi and we will try and build this emergency fund in the meantime. We are forced to operate within the rules set by the Indian government, which are strict. We are trying to establish if we are allowed to distribute parcels with food and basic needs. Maybe use our school as a distribution center? After all, in spite of lockdown, people are allowed to leave their homes to get food.

For the time being we are focusing on basic packages containing rice, lentils, flour, oil, potatoes, onion, tea and sugar, protective face masks, soap, anti-mosquito repellent, paracetamol, vitamin C. The cost per family per month is approximately € 43. For now, we aim for an emergency fund to sustain 127 families for a period of two months: € 11,000.

We are well aware that for many of us in Europe and elsewhere in the world the future is uncertain and frightening. We are aware of the predicament you find yourself in. Maybe you are in lockdown yourself, at home without work or you have a sick person to take care of. You may not be able to visit your parents, or you may have been forced to close your business. Even so, we hope you will help us build this emergency fund. The reality of these 127 families is they have literally nothing to fall back on. For these people in the slum of Varanasi the lockdown is almost equal to certain death. For them, it does not mean watching Netflix to pass the days indoors. Their reality is confinement to a slum hut with unbearable hot temperatures, no air-conditioning, fridge or running water, no medical care, no social safety net to fall back on. And to begin with: no food.

The coronavirus is a terrifying reality for all of us to deal with. But for the families of the children who have been coming to our school years, this is a drama which they may not survive without our support. So please help us help them.

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