The nationwide lockdown across India is having a devastating impact on the country’s most vulnerable people – many of whom are the children and families we work with.
Our teams have been contacting and supporting as many of them as possible and have been able to offer emergency help already.
One family we met was through 13-year-old Hakkim, who left home to find work so he could bring some money in to the home. He had been found and settled in to one of the Government run children’s homes while we worked to reunite him with his family and found out more about their situation.
Hakkim was one of four and his father worked hard in the construction industry to support his wife and children. But he never quite made ends meet, and often resorted to borrowing money to pay for rent and food. Gradually the debts grew out of control and unable to repay them Hakkim’s father committed suicide when he was just eight years old.
The family struggled to deal with this trauma, although his mother went out to work daily, so that Hakkim could carry on going to school. One of his older brothers left home after an argument and another brother worked hard as a salesman.
But when his mother was suddenly taken ill and unable to work, Hakkim felt he had no choice but to find work himself.
He headed to the city and this is when we spotted him at the station and intervened. We made sure he was safe and after his stay in the care home and multiple family visits, we reunited Hakkim with his family on February 22nd.
He went back to school and was working hard but within weeks the coronavirus pandemic hit India and we knew this already fragile family would be suffering.
Our team contacted them urgently and found that Hakkim’s brother had already lost his job leaving the family with no income and no food. Any savings they had had already been spent on the mother’s medical treatment and at the point we contacted them they were unable to pay the rent and desperately hungry.
Hakkim’s mother said: "My eldest son was earning our only income and without that we are not able to buy food, let alone soap or masks so that we can make some effort to survive this virus."
We immediately contacted local authorities to ask for emergency passes that would allow our teams to travel to the family and help them and as soon as these were granted we rushed to the home and gave them cooked food to eat straight away as well as enough rice, flour, sugar, oil and soap to last for the next four weeks.
Hakkim’s mother added:
We were suffering with no food, locked down in our house and had nothing – now the RCI team has found us something to eat and helped by showing us how to keep safe from the deadly virus.
The same day, our team also reached another four children’s families that we knew would be in similar desperate need and provided them the same emergency food pack of rice, flour, cooking oil and soap.
There are thousands of families like Hakkim’s who need our help in this way during this unprecedented crisis and we are working round the clock to reach them.
We are working with the authorities, social service providers and partners and are committed to ensuring that no child and their family remains hungry through this difficult time.
Photos and names have been changed to protect identities.