COVID Emergency Response - Impact Overview
Arise’s COVID response, launched in March, has now entered its third phase 'bridging lockdown and economic recovery'. This third phase is designed to increase resilience in vulnerable communities, to prevent an upsurge in human trafficking before economies fully recover.
Details of the first two phases of our COVID response (emergency relief) can be found here, with their impact consolidated.
Group in Arise network generates world’s largest dataset of domestic workers to date
Between 2015 and 2019, the Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI*) surveyed nearly 12,000 domestic workers in North East India. Of at least 4 million domestic workers in India and 67 million worldwide, the new dataset is the largest single set of surveys of domestic workers to date.
The dataset makes a remarkable contribution to the research on domestic workers and modern slavery. It feeds into the little-examined tradition of human rights data-gathering by Catholic sisters, and it is testament to the value of frontline research.
As local, embedded and trusted researchers, CDI gathered this data in contexts that would not have been accessible to outsiders, from people at high risk of labour exploitation whose lives are hidden from view beyond the walls of private homes. Until now, this work was unobservable in such detail and scope.
*CDI is part of Arise’s anti-slavery network in India. It is a frontline service provider to at-risk populations and a registered non-profit organisation, directed by Sister Rose Paite. The domestic worker surveys were collected as part of CDI’s “Domestic Workers Union Structure” project, through which it has registered over 18,000 domestic workers in 12 cities of the region into 600 groups. Those registered receive capacity-building support, rights training, and a platform for advocacy and campaigning.
For developing countries, the threat of lockdown far outweighs the threat of the virus
_First published by the Telegraph on 22 April 2020. _
In India and elsewhere, a state of lockdown has put millions at risk of starvation
The Covid-19 pandemic is sometimes described as a "great leveller", and in one way this is true – no one is immune. But we do not stand equal before it.
In the slums of India, favelas of Brazil and townships of Africa, questions such as “flattening the curve” or how many ventilators exist in the national health system are not at the top of anyone’s mind. People are not even protesting the expense of soap or their lack of access to running water. Why? Because lockdown is producing a threat of famine that annihilates the threat of the virus.
On March 25, India stalled abruptly into lockdown – the world’s largest, affecting 1.353 billion people, which has now been extended to May 3. Tens of millions of jobs have vanished, along with the prospect of food and shelter for a large segment of the population.
The devastation among India’s internal migrants is harrowing. Following the instructions of their employers, migrant workers are draining out of India’s megacities and into their regions of origin. Transport systems have been suspended, forcing many to walk hundreds of kilometers on foot. Some states are turning migrants back to prevent the spread of infection, leaving them stranded at border posts.
When the lockdown was first announced, the Indian Government promised to provide food to the poor and jobless. But the magnitude of this issue has left millions without such support. In any case, India’s existing ration card system does not extend to migrant households.
Meanwhile, employers are offering rations only to their permanent workers or workers with whom they have binding contracts. Temporary migrant workers, who constitute a large proportion of the Indian workforce, are generally excluded from ration programs. Amidst lockdown and travel bans, this leaves vast swathes of the population hungry, and beyond the reach of the international aid community.
The unthinkable task of feeding the Indian people has therefore fallen to frontline groups – the same NGOs that struggle to win support from the international aid community, and are denied a seat at the human rights policy table. Despite daunting, even overwhelming, scarcity, many frontline NGOs are responding effectively and nimbly, staying close to the situation on the ground and maintaining the trust of affected communities.
What's interesting is how these dedicated groups have taken the fight to Covid-19. Many frontline groups have, for example, leveraged their ties to local government authorities, negotiating concessions to deliver vital food parcels or establish food banks, sometimes with the assistance of the police.
Others have made agreements with local grocery stores to implement food stamp systems, and have begun issuing them to vulnerable families. A handful have gone as far as to create makeshift mask factories and to distribute the masks while informing communities about the virus.
This pandemic has upped the stakes for anti-slavery work, since poverty and famine provide a hotbed for exploitation. But in India and across the globe, as existing chasms between “haves” and “have-nots” deepen, frontline groups are shining a light, and countering overwhelming scarcity with resilience. For anyone wanting to help people suffering under these awful conditions, these groups are your hands, feet and heart. There is no other way to reach the needy.
Covid-19 is teaching us many hard lessons. One is the irreplaceable value of smaller, frontline organisations, at a time when the international aid sector is struggling to adapt. When rebuilding societies from the wreckage of this virus, we should look to these groups for guidance.
Tove van Lennep, Manager of Frontline Advocacy