Soap for life – Situation in our Making More Health areas in India

On 24 March Prime Minister Modi declared the immediate lockdown for the next 3 weeks. For 1.3 billion people.

In many parts of the country, in the slums, but also in rural areas and our tribal areas in the South of India where the poor life. A lockdown means no informal job anymore, no access to money and, consequently also no food.

This is particularly difficult for all those who live with less than 130 rupees (1.5 EUR/Dollar) per day. They have no provision and also social distancing is difficult when 10 people live in a small room.

Additionally, there is a huge lack of access to the basics of hygiene. And health awareness. I remember when a tribal woman told me that there was no soap at all. So what does it help when they have learned the techniques on how to wash the hands, but there is no soap? And does this handwashing matter if you have no food and no opportunity to get food even tomorrow?

What’s happening in our areas (Anaikatti area, and suburban parts in Coimbatore, South India) where we run a lot of projects on the ground?

A doctor from the tribal hospital whom we are working within our local health community worker training says: “Yes, we are preparing for the hospitalization phase. Triage in the hospital, only emergencies are taken. Separate words are created… Restricted entry into the villages.” He is worried about the tribal people. “They are the most vulnerable. We take all the necessary actions that we could. Praying ….”

Our local NGO partner adds: ”We have informed all Self-help group members to remain home and wash hands with soap.” The NGO has closed all programs – for the next weeks. Normally, they teach also other NGOs from India and neighbor countries about many topics and share knowledge about projects, communication, children's rights, project request with the government, etc. 20 years already. Now it has stopped. Safety first.

Our Selfhelp groups in many villages know how to produce soap. We have done many trainings on hygiene, handwashing and soap production with them in the last three years. Even a soap production contest…and a huge health program on many health topics.

All this might now help to avoid infections. Hopefully.

Still, there are many poor who struggle a lot. In the rural areas harvesting has slowed down or stopped completely. The lockdown forbids us to work in the fields. Some villagers don’t understand. Who does not link that all to an invisible disease. 794 active cases at the moment. For a country like India, it seems to be still low. Let’s hope that the initiatives taken will help to protect the people. It would be devastating.

We have planned some concrete next steps on how to engage further our tailoring women in producing masks. And will see how we can support disinfection liquid making. Our colleagues in Mumbai have also started to help in the surroundings in Mumbai.

Hopeful, we can tell you more about it soon.