As India battles second wave of COVID-19, Action Against Hunger responds to looming hunger crisis

India second wave covid

Food basket distribution in Mumbai. Photo: Sudharak Olwe for Action Against Hunger, India.

As India continues to battle the latest wave of COVID-19, Action Against Hunger is working to support the overburdened health system and respond to a looming hunger crisis. The pandemic has intensified food insecurity across the country, disrupting supply chains, limiting employment opportunities and leaving millions of families in deep financial distress and unable to access adequate food or other basic necessities.

“With much of India now in lockdown and health services struggling to keep up, we fear that hunger and malnutrition will quickly follow COVID-19’s latest wave in India, especially for vulnerable groups like young children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers,” said Snigdha Sahal, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger India.

Prior to the pandemic, two-thirds of India’s population lived in poverty and four out of ten children were chronically malnourished. Research shows the pandemic has had a devastating impact on incomes and worsened food security in India. Action Against Hunger is distributing food baskets containing basics like oil, salt, millet, wheat, peanuts and spices to help families in need cope with reduced incomes and lost livelihoods. To date, over 200 tons of dry rations have been delivered to vulnerable families, with an additional 200 tons planned for delivery in the coming months.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Action Against Hunger’s nearly 200 in-country staff have supported 41,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women and treated 6,000 malnourished children. We have also made more than 55,000 phone calls to equip people with reliable information on COVID-19 precautions and vaccines, and to address the rising need for nutrition and hunger prevention and for stress management and mental health.

These measures have helped parents like Ashwini, a 32-year-old breastfeeding mother, access essential health information and manage the psychological distress caused by the crisis. After a difficult pregnancy marked by severe anxiety and health complications, her now five-month-old son Shaurya was born premature.

“The pandemic has caused anxiety among the lactating mothers,” says Deepawali Kadam, Community Mobiliser with Action Against Hunger.

Ashwini says she often felt paranoid in the days following the birth of her son. “I remember calling Deepawali didi at night once when I had developed a slight fever and cold. I was quite worried if it would affect my baby as I was breastfeeding. It was because of their constant support and counselling on what foods to eat and proper breastfeeding I was able to pull through without leaving the house in this pandemic ,” she says.

India Second Wave COVID
Action Against Hunger Community Mobiliser Deepawali Kadam provides nutrition counseling to Ashwini, whose son was born premature during the pandemic. Photo: Sudharak Olwe for Action Against Hunger, India.

Action Against Hunger is also collaborating with local authorities and partners to provide necessary equipment to government hospitals and frontline workers so they can continue to provide critical healthcare services. As of May 10, 2021, 249,264 face masks, shields, gloves and sanitizers have been provided to government frontline workers, and 10,797 PPE kits have been provided to local authorities and hospitals in Mumbai. Additional supplies, including 30,000 PPE and N95 masks, 30 ventilator units, 120 fetal monitors and BiPap machines, and 3,500 medical devices including oximeters and nebulizers are planned for delivery in the coming months.


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