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#HungerFreeIndia: How India Can Come Together And Save Its Children During Coronavirus Pandemic

#HungerFreeIndia: How India Can Come Together And Save Its Children During Coronavirus Pandemic

Millions of children and their families across India continue to face hunger and inadequate nutrition caused by the COVID-19. When a strong defence against the virus is good nutrition and strong immunity, thousands of vulnerable children and their parents are uncertain of their next meal. According to the Global Hunger Index 2019, 19 crore people go hungry every day, about 14.5 per cent of our population is undernourished. To help reach out these thousands and more families with immediate relief assistance and long-term recovery and rehabilitation programmes, NDTV and NGO World Vision India have joined hands to provide support to these children and their families across India who continue to face hunger and inadequate nutrition caused by the COVID-19. 

As a part of the campaign, a 2-hour special telethon was organised to raise funds that will help reach out to these vulnerable people during this tough time of the pandemic. Experts, social workers and celebrities came together to discuss how India as one community can come together and save their own people. 

Joining the telethon with NDTV's Dr Prannoy Roy, Cherian Thomas, Regional Leader, Asia Pacific & Pacific, World Vision International highlighted how children are the most affected ones in the times of coronavirus and said,

We have written to the government, that child abuse will be a major problem at this point in time. 1098, the helpline can help in preventing situations like this.  We are trying to prepare communities to prevent child abuse in every way possible during this time of the pandemic.

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Further talking about the kind of work NGO World Vision India has been doing, Mr Thomas added,

There is the element of the heart in the work we do and an element of the mind to manage the work we do for helping the children. We have been working for the last 70 years in the country and have been involved in relief work during floods and famines. What we are doing amid the coronavirus crisis, we are using technology to work and help out the children affected. We are using social media and with our partners, we are trying to adjust and be innovative and creative.

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Madhur Bhandarkar, Film Director, Script Writer & Producer joined the #HungerFreeIndia telethon and added,

I think at this moment we all need to come together to prevent the abuse/exploitation of children. The film fraternity and production people, artists association, and others are sticking together for the kids and the daily wagers. It is very necessary that in such situation, you provide food and other essentials required in a day to day life.

Ritu Kumar, Fashion Designer speaking at the telethon said how coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the mass population of the society and the most vulnerable are the poor people and children. She added,

It is very rare that people understand that the textile industry is the biggest employer after agriculture. We have about 16 million employed just in the hand textile field. Most of the people have gone back home and there is no work in their hands and because of the lockdown, they cannot go anywhere to earn money. The government needs to invest in the handicraft sector just like they do in start-ups. There is a need to remove the middle-men in this sector.

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She further added, 

We are the only country where handicraft is still alive. We need to not look at Bangladesh and look at the made-in-India products. These children who have DNA of this art are forced to become porters or labourers will be a pity. Their art needs to be kept alive.

Sonu Sood, Actor and Producer, who recently also helped organised buses for migrant labour workers so that they can return home safely amid coronavirus crisis, joined the #HungerFreeIndia telethon and highlighted why there is a need to help these vulnerable people out there. He said,

The lockdown has been an eye-opener for everyone. I saw some videos on social media in which people where misbehaving with doctors and medical staff. I have a hotel in Juhu and there are many hospitals nearby. So, I thought why not give it to the hospital staff to rest, eat and be near their work place.

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Further speaking at the #HungerFreeIndia telethon, he added,

I want to request the government to let the people go back to their home without any difficulties. There are so many forms to fill and need strings to be pulled to help the needy people reach back to their loved ones.

Chandan Mendiratta, Head, Zomato Feeding India campaign that was launched by India's foodtech giant - Zomato to protect a large population of migrant and daily wage workers from hunger, said,

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Zomato feeding India campaign has been in place since last 6 years and we have been addressing the problem of hunger. We realised that migrant workers are suffering the most because of the lockdown and so we went ahead to give them free ration kits in this tough time. In the last one and half months, we have distributed 5,75,000 ration kits across 120 cities that correspond to 6 crore meals.

Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef, Entrepreneur and Television Personality talked about lockdown crisis and said,

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Malnutrition is very high in our country. People in the current situation are even more vulnerable. The focus should be on keeping food simple but very nutritious by adding fortified food to increase protein and nutrition content in the food. All of us have to become ambassadors of nutrition for kids.

Preetha Reddy, Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospital Enterprise Ltd. talking about how COVID-19 is affecting millions of people out there because they are unable to feed themselves, said,

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We have to work with those Pharma companies who make the vitamins and see that it reach the vulnerable children on time. To build immunity, we all have to come together and see we reach out to those who need it, especially the children.

Dr Shikha Sharma, Nutritionist & Holistic Health Coach highlighting the importance of good nutrition and the right amount of food to deal with this crisis situation said,

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Children do not have a voice and are dependent on others. The hygiene kit has all essential items like sanitisers, masks, sanitary pads etc. The sanitary conditions for young girls who are menstruating are extremely important, all this needs to be taken care of, especially during the times like this.

A.R. Rahman, Oscar & Grammy-Winning Composer, Music Producer & Singer also joined the telethon and highlighted the plight of poor people who are fighting even to get one meal of the day and added,

Sometimes when something is convenient, we tend to overlook things that need attention. The crisis has done that and it is good to learn from each other. Nature is now saying that everything has gone wrong and it is the time to fix it.

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He further added,

It is terrifying what is happening with the children right now and how people are suffering without food, especially children. We all should come together to empower the children with knowledge so that they become art leaders in future.

Kabir Khan, Director joining the #HungerFreeIndia initiative said, “We have been sitting at home for the past 45 days, but when you see people on the highways trying to get home, it is really sad but the contrast between the rich and poor can be seen unfolded. It makes us very uncomfortable. We came across an initiative at your channel and we decided to donate because everyone who can, must come forward and help.”

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Abhijit Banerjee, Nobel Laureate, Economics talking about the ongoing coronavirus crisis and how it is affecting the people across the country said,

Group of children who have run away from home, who works in a tea shop or as a helper in a truck. It is hard to make an estimate of how many children are not attached to the family of some system to help them out. Like if PDS provides ration, it doesn't provide it to the children, it provides to family. There is probably a bunch of NGO who are trying to save these children but the lack of funds is a constraint for them. The money needs to arrive in the hands of the NGOs. There are some great NGOs working at the district level. In this heat, the children are on the road. All of us who belong to the Indian elite must hang our heads in shame. We should have had one nation, one ration card scheme a long long time ago.

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Swara Bhaskar, Actress too joined the telethon and urged everyone to stay safe in this ‘no-so-normal' times. She added,

The silver lining in these rather dark times is when citizens have stepped up and done their bit and have tried very hard to make sure that they help those who are vulnerable. I would only say that it is really the question of us to continue doing what we are doing. The more privileged among us can continue to pay the salary to our domestic help and drivers even now when they are not on duty.

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Shankar Mahadevan, Singer & Composer highlighted how coronavirus pandemic has affected mostly children and said,

These are strange time and all of us in our own capacity should contribute and try to pass on the message in support of children who the future of this country. We must protect them and take care of them and basically we must feed them.

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Key Campaign Objectives

  1. To provide food security by distributing cooked food packages and dry ration kits
  2. Support the restoration and improvement of livelihoods to increase, diversify, stabilise and strengthen existing sources of income
  3. Support health facilities and health workers with essentials including personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, sanitisers
  4. Educate vulnerable communities and families on COVID-19 prevention, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and mental health.