A snapshot of India: the children of the pandemic

Covid-19 continues to engulf many regions in India. There is widespread illness and hunger and precious few resources available.

Back to all stories | Posted on 10/10/21 in NewsBlog

The pandemic has also exacerbated the problems of poverty and hunger in India and millions of children are at risk of severe malnutrition because of the current situation. With restrictions still in place, millions of children also find themselves out of school. This has had a devastating impact on their learning and has left many hungry, as the food provided by Mary’s Meals in education facilities is often their only meal of the day.

As the pandemic shows little sign of abating across many regions, and more and more families struggle to put food on the table, our trusted partner – BREAD – has adopted the feeding program to provide take-home rations for vulnerable children throughout the pandemic. Thanks to this heroic work, children can continue to collect their Mary’s Meals rations at school and parents can cook for them at home. This ensures that the most vulnerable children – who would otherwise go hungry – can eat a meal at home while in-school feeding is not possible.

Thanks to the hard work of BREAD – who find themselves in challenging circumstances personally because of the pandemic – our community distributions in India are not only reaching children who were already enrolled in our school feeding program, but also bringing much-needed food to children who were not previously benefiting from meals at school. This work is a lifeline for thousands of children across India.

Roshan's story
Roshan, 14, loves school, but fears his future will be lost forever if lockdown does not end soon.

Roshan and his family live in a mud house in the jungle, where electricity is scarce, and opportunities are few and far between. The arrival of Mary’s Meals at St Mary’s School in Chetma encouraged him to attend school, and he has now been a pupil there for six years.

Like many others his age, Roshan has been unable to attend classes since March last year and he is worried about this extended period away from school. He hopes that he can pick up where he left off when classes resume but fears he will miss out on his chance to learn as the time away from school continues.

Roshan is the eldest of four children. The second wave of the pandemic had a grave impact on his family and for the past 14 months he has worked tirelessly to earn enough money to buy rations for everyone at home. His parents also work in the fields, but the work is ad hoc and never guaranteed.

Although he is unable to learn as normal, Roshan can still visit his school to collect food rations provided by Mary’s Meals, thanks to the local community distribution program. He shares what he receives from Mary’s Meals with his family, and they can enjoy meals together at home.

“Life has been very tough,” Roshan explains. “I long to go to school as I have forgotten what I have learned. The only time I visit the school is when there is Mary’s Meals ration distribution. I thank you.”

Sony's story

Elsewhere, in Marwai, in the state of Jharkhand, Covid-19 is an unknown quantity for Sony Khatoon and her family. Her father – the only breadwinner of the family – lost his battle to the disease in April this year and his death has left the family hungry and in a desperate situation.

A relatively small number of people have died from Covid-19 in the village where Sony and her family live (around six are believed to have died since the pandemic began). The other villagers are fearful of the disease as they do not understand the cause or symptoms, so Sony and her family were left to nurse and bury their father alone, with very little support.

In light of the hardships facing her family, the nuns in charge of St. Theresa’s School in Morwai extended a helping hand to Sony and took her under their wing, offering her a place to board at the school. The facility is located three miles from Sony’s home, and, as the only female boarder at the convent, she sometimes feels lonely. Yet she is happy that there is enough food for her to eat and she does not feel hunger like she did immediately after her father passed away.

Sony has been attending the school since May and has only seen her mother and grandmother once since she arrived. Although the school is a distance from her home, she is happy to spend time with her family whenever she can.

Amar's story

Amar’s dream is to be a teacher.

The 12-year-old boy is bright and attends St Mary’s School in Chetma with his sister. Sadly, not all members of Amar’s family are likely to share the same bright future as him. His younger brother is deaf, and his parents don’t have enough money to treat his condition, so he cannot go to school with his siblings and spends all his time at home.

Amar’s family is poor, and they rent a piece of land to grow crops to make ends meet. When our colleagues from BREAD (our partner in India) met with Amar and his family, he was busy working in the fields planting rice seedlings.

The Covid-19 situation in Chetma village, which is in the East Indian state of Jharkhand, is dire. Many villagers are sick, and the health system is struggling to tend to those in need. There is no capacity for testing in the area, so residents are anxious at the prospect of another wave of the disease.

Covid-19 is not the only worry of Amar and his family. A lack of rain is causing them great concern over the condition of the crops they are planting to feed the family and earn a living. They are deeply worried about the months to come.

“The rain is less, and the crops need plenty of water. We’re not sure how the crops will be,” Amar’s mother explained.

With the help of Mary’s Meals, Amar and his family can collect food rations from his school. They are using these rations to feed not only the children but the whole family. The security offered by the Mary’s Meals community distribution program has relieved some of the strain from Amar’s parents, knowing they can feed their family.

“Mary’s Meals has been supporting not only my children but also the rest of the family as dry rations are given in the school,” said his mother.

“Thank you.”