Running out of funds, NGOs are facing a crisis and the coming days will only add to the woes of hundreds of homeless children, who have been living in the shelters provided by outfits such as Snehalaya in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – For many dedicated NGO activists, who have for years been working among the poor and the helpless, the Covid-19 crisis has emerged as one of the worst incidents that is sadly snatching away lives and destroying hopes of a better future for thousands of children and women.
Dr Girish Kulkarni, founder of Snehalaya, an Ahmednagar-based NGO for children’s and women’s empowerment, a former journalist-cum-professor, who is also a well-known social worker, is today a very sad man. While Covid-19 continues to play havoc across many districts in Maharashtra, in his native Ahmednagar it has seen nearly 275 deaths and almost 20,000 positive cases.
But Kulkarni is worried about the impact that Covid-19 is having on homeless youth and kids, on dedicated workers at NGOs, on HIV/Aids-infected people and patients deprived of services at government hospitals. “The situation is simply getting out of control,” a sad and disappointed Kulkarni tells Clarion India. “It is becoming worse by the day.”
Most of the students in the 18-26 age group, who are associated with its institutes had returned to their homes after the Covid outbreak, but more than a hundred have come back to Ahmednagar. Unfortunately, they are not able to pay the house rents. Worse, anti-HIV/Aids drugs are not easily accessible and these youngsters are facing the threat of complications.
Such patients are more likely to get Covid-19 as their immunity system is weak. “And most private hospitals in Ahmednagar are closed and public hospitals are focussed only on Covid-19,” explains Kulkarni. The situation is even worse in the children’s home of Snehalaya, which earlier had about 350 kids in the 6 to 18 age group. Today, there are 45 children, 43 of who are below the age of six months.
The government has also emphasised that schools should focus on tele-education for students during the Covid crisis, but this is applicable for children from well-to-do families, notes Kulkarni. “None of the children at our institutes can access online education because they do not have tablets or access to computers.”
An organisation like Snehalaya, which has about two-dozen projects in education, healthcare, rehabilitation and awareness, has a staff strength of 350. About four have turned positive for Covid-19, but do not have any insurance coverage.
NGOs like Snehalaya, working out there in the field among the poor and the needy are suffering the worst, as funds have started depleting rapidly and the inflow having virtually stopped. “All the corporates and big donors are contributing to the PM CARES Fund, which allows 100 per cent tax deduction, whereas donations to trusts get just 50 per cent tax benefits,” he points out. “I am very worried now about how long will we be able to operate, especially since the situation continues to worsen every day.”