Government-run and private orphanages in the Delhi-NCR region say they are prepared for the nationwide lockdown in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, but a drastic drop in donations is a major cause for concern for them. And they fear things would only get worse if the lockdown continues beyond May 3.
“The funds have gone down drastically and people don’t visit as often as they used to. So, naturally, we have to think and see how long these things will continue,” Anjina Rajagopal, Executive Director at the SaiKripa orphanage told indianexpress.com. The Noida-based institution is 30-years-old and houses 55 children.
Due to the lockdown, the flow of donors who regularly visited the orphanage to give funds and essential items has completely stopped, she said.
“We have stocks for two months. But unlike earlier, where donors were coming in on a daily basis, that is not happening anymore. Definitely that has had an impact,” said Dr Sandhya Bhalla, director of the Delhi Council of Child Welfare (DCCW) .
“If the situation continues, we will have to dig deep into our pockets because we are an organisation that is dependent on donors. With the donor being affected economically, their giving capacity also goes down,” she said.
There are around 100 registered orphanages in Delhi, of which 36 are run by the Delhi government or in partnership with NGOs. There are some institutions that receive foreign funding.
Many of the orphanages said they can only gauge the financial situation only after the first quarter ends.
“People are still donating, but given the current economic situation in the country, they will first look at themselves before doing charity. It is too early for us to say anything. It will take us time to assess the impact,” Bhalla said.
SaiKripa’s Rajagopal said they are almost completely dependent on donations and about 10 per cent of the support they receive is financial while the rest is in goods that are needed.
“And as our offices are closed, the financial impact can notbe exactly calculated. The donations have stopped because people are not able to come and visit,” she said.
Delhi’s Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam promised all possible support.
“We are providing them financial help as well as supplying food twice a day. Next week, we have a Cabinet meeting and will discuss an action plan on the way forward if lockdown is extended…Hum bachon ke liye koi kaami mehsoos nahi hone denge(We won’t allow them to feel any shortage)” he said.
Gautam said the Delhi government is closely monitoring the situation in these orphanages with regards to the supply of food and social distancing norms.
“Moreover, we have deputed High Court judges who are overlooking the situation in the orphanages,” he said.
Caring for children with reduced manpower
Most of the orphanages are relying on various physical activities to keep the children engaged. SaiKripa’s Rajagopal said that keeping the children all day may get difficult if the lockdown is extended further.
The DMRC Children Home in Tis Hazari, which is run by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in association with Salaam Baalak Trust, has regular workouts, athletics and yoga for the children housed there.
Most of the institutions are functioning with reduced manpower. Jolly Geevarghese, a senior program manager at the government-run HOPE Foundation, said a part of their staff worked for 10 days at a stretch and then the next batch took over.
At the DMRC Children Home, there’s a weekly change of staff. “A group of 8-10 people work at once to manage the around 50 school-going children here. For those who are living in hotspot areas, we have asked them to work from home instead,” said Sanjay Dubey, the institution’s co-ordinator.
“Our management team has got passes made for staff and vehicles to make sure movement is easy to bring the staff as well as essential items,” he said.
Most orphanages had started restricting the entry of visitors from February, as news of the spread of the novel coronavirus emerged.
“Since March 22, all the staff that were coming from different places or far away have been stopped. Luckily, we have residential staff that have been managing most of the things along with the older children who are helping out in managing the orphanage work,” said Rajagopal from SaiKripa.
Many institutions are also following strict procedures to prevent the spread of the virus with staff and residents being checked for symptoms.
“The MCD comes for sanitization once a week and we ourselves also sanitise. All our milk packets are put into potassium permanganate and the vegetables are washed as per instructions. Masks, gloves, scarves, everything is mandatory for the staff,” said Bhalla from DCCW.
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