COVID-19 in Mumbai: Food supplies hit in Dharavi as funds run out fast

Updated: May 19, 2020, 06:54 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

NGOs supplying food in one of Mumbai's biggest containment zones send out SOS as funds are running out fast, donations are dwindling and volunteers disappearing

An NGO distributing food to migrants in Dharavi. Pic/Atul Kamble
An NGO distributing food to migrants in Dharavi. Pic/Atul Kamble

With the lockdown in place for almost two months now, NGOs providing food in Dharavi are running out of funds, and have reduced the quantity being distributed.

According to social workers, lakhs of people there, especially migrants, are dependent on the food brought by NGOs and locals. The reduction could lead to another serious humanitarian crisis.

"We have been distributing 400 food kits on daily basis for more than one month since the lockdown was announced, but due to the shortage of funds, we have reduced it to 70 kits per day. Many people are not getting two meals a day. We are trying our best to help everyone," said Gulzar Khan, whose NGO, Hum Sab Ek Hai, supplies food kits in Dharavi.

A sack of potatoes delivered to a Dharavi resident. Pic/Ashish Raje
A sack of potatoes delivered to a Dharavi resident. Pic/Ashish Raje

Dharavi foundation, another NGO, is also facing a shortage of funds. So the NGO which initially supplied food kits, now only sanitises public toilets.

"As it's been almost two months, there is a shortage of funds. But we haven't stopped our work. We sanitise public toilets, which is one of biggest reasons behind the spread of COVID-19 in Dharavi. We also provide sanitisers at the toilets," said Rajendra Kode, an activist from Dharavi Foundation.

The NGOs claim individuals who were coming from outside to distribute food on their own, have almost stopped, due to the rise in cases every day.

"We used to distribute 200 kits on a daily basis but now we distribute only 60-70 per day, due to the shortage of funds. Volunteers are not coming because they are scared. The government supply is not enough," said Mani Gandan from Eric Welfare Association.

For many migrants this has meant getting only one meal or not even enough for that, once a day. "Initially we got enough food but then we began getting it only once or twice a day. The quantity is also very less. It is just enough for survival. I stay with a group of 90 people. Initially, we all got separate meals, but now we get only 50-60, so we all share. Sometimes we get half a meal just once a day," said Maqbool Hasan, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh.

'Even half a meal is something'
But some migrants are ready to survive even on half a meal a day, as they don't have work back in their hometowns and want to stay in the city. Firoz Siddiqui, a migrant worker from Raebareli, said, "For the past 15 days the food supply has been severely affected. Hum log intezar me rahte hai ki koi khana laayega. Aadha pet hi sahi lekin thoda bahut khana abhi bhi mil jata hai. (We wait in anticipation that someone will get food. Even if it is half a meal we get something). I don't want to leave as I don't have any work to do in my home town. Bus ummed kar rahe hai sab theek ho jayega (We are hoping things get back to normal.)"

BMC continues to supply food
The BMC has been supplying 38,000 food kits every day in Dharavi. "We have also been delivering 19,000 lunch and dinner packets daily. Since the lockdown we have distributed 25,000 ration kits. As it is Ramazan, 11,000 fruit kits are being served on a daily basis to those who are fasting,' said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner, G North ward.

He also claimed that the burden on NGOs has reduced as thousands of migrants have gone back to their native places.

Rahul Shewale, Shiv Sena MP said, "The ward officer and department concerned are making a list of those areas where the NGOs have stopped food supply services. Last week, we had already started a central kitchen to ensure the smooth supply of food in Dharavi. So, there won't be any impact on the supply of food as the kitchen has the capacity of supplying one lakh food kits daily. Currently, 38,000 food kits are being supplied from this kitchen."

No. of food packets NGOs deliver today against 200 earlier

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