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Coronavirus Causing Humanitarian Crisis in India

by | Thu, Apr 2 2020

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Indian woman wearing mask
Photo credit: stockpexel /

In a crisis time like this when everyone is uncertain of what the potential outcomes of the Coronavirus might be.  It makes us thankful for all that living in a country like Australia offers – medically, politically and socially.

But other nations like India are facing a different story and a huge challenge of the very serious ramifications that comes with a global pandemic.  They lack a robust public health system and with millions of people living poverty fear is widespread.

While the numbers of confirmed cases in countries like India may look low, with extremely poor testing rates the actual number of positive Covid-19 cases is likely to be far higher than what is being reported.

Kate is the CEO of Dignity Freedom Network that focuses on serving the Dalit people, who are amongst the poorest in India, spoke with Neil Johnson on Vision Christian Radio’s 20Twenty program about the reality of life in the midst of Coronavirus.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown, which may help to prevent the spread of the virus, but what does it mean for those living in poverty who need to leave the house to earn an income?

When New Zealand went into full lockdown they were given 48 hours’ notice, in India “it was less than 4 hours” Kate shares.

Empty streets of India
Empty streets of India patrolled by Police during the lockdown. (Photo credit: stockpexel /

“For many people who work hand to mouth it just meant that they didn’t have the ability to gather supplies or food – they didn’t have the money.  They’re being locked down in really squalled lodging where they’re crowded.  It’s just the perfect environment for the Covid-19 virus to flourish and really do some serious damage.”

“Doctors in India are saying it’s just a matter of time before things really escalate and becomes a humanitarian disaster.  They’re also saying that India is just not ready.”

“India spends at the moment 3.7% of GDP on health, compared to 10% in Australia.”

When it comes to the Dalit people, the lowest of the cast system in India, Kate says “with the lockdown, if they go outside their home they can well be beaten by the Police.  Well, they don’t have toilets in their homes, they go outside to use toilet facilities. They don’t have water so they have to go out to wells.  So they don’t have access to food or water and then of course the sanitary issue with the toilets adds to the example of just how desperate their situation is.”

“Healthcare is very difficult and not affordable for these people.  Our community health workers are scattered through a large part of India, and we’ve been focused on upskilling them – teaching hygiene education and going into villages, working with people to find out if they might be contaminated, and then helping them access healthcare.”

“But now our community healthcare workers also get beaten by the Police if they’re in the villages trying to help.”

“We have clinics around the country and we’re ramping up the equipment, we’re ramping up the personnel, we’re ramping up every kind of help that we can do.”

Continue listening to Neil’s conversation with Kate about the crisis in India and what we can do to help.

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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