Project SUJAY – Supporting Households of Health Workers through Emergency Cash Assistance
In India, the devastating second wave of COVID-19 left in its wake over 2.29 lakh deaths since April 2021. Of these, a section comprises of the health workers who succumbed to COVID helping patients on the frontlines. We at Grameen wish to commemorate and honour their contribution as passionate COVID warriors, and not as a bundled statistic.
In this regard, Grameen Foundation for Social Impact has launched a new initiative to support the families of the healthcare workers who lost their lives due to COVID-19 while serving the community during the second wave. The initiative will be placed in three cities – Delhi NCR, Varanasi, and Nagpur. Through this initiative, Grameen will provide emergency cash assistance to help the households of health workers over the next 12 months. This assistance will enable the affected households to meet their essential household consumption needs in the face of loss of the earning family member, loss of employment and livelihoods, thereby saving lives and preventing these affected households from falling into the poverty trap.
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Grameen plans to channel emergency cash transfers to support the families of the healthcare workers who have lost their lives due to Covid, so that these households do not fall under the poverty trap and can afford the basic sustenance cost such as food security, medical expenses, mortgage and other debt repayments, education, etc.
To support the families of the deceased healthcare workers fighting Covid-19, the government had announced Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package Insurance Scheme for Health Workers in March 2020. Various reports showcase that despite the toil and the hard work, the healthcare professionals have not been rewarded appropriately. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the insurance support announced by the government in March 2020 for the families of healthcare workers has lapsed in March 2021 and the policy to cover the health workers and their families beyond March 2021 is yet to be announced which is placing the family of the deceased healthcare workers in a difficult situation.
Delhi has reported the maximum deaths of doctors in the second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic in the country, and is followed by Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There is no readily available record of the total number of healthcare workers who have died, many in small towns or rural areas.
In response to a question, the Indian parliament was informed in Feb 2021 that a total of 174 doctors, 116 nurses and 199 healthcare workers had died due to COVID-19 in the country. Subsequently, in a report released on May 24th, 2021 the Indian Medical Association reported that over 500 doctors had died during COVID second wave, with Delhi alone accounting for 103 casualties.
In line with our mission to ‘enable the poor, especially women, to overcome poverty and hunger,’ Grameen has focused its COVID-19 response on addressing the economic impacts of the pandemic felt by the most vulnerable. In 2020, Grameen piloted an unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program to support vulnerable households in Bihar and Maharashtra. With generous support from private donors and a crowdfunding campaign, Grameen provided cash transfers to over 1,400 highly vulnerable households assisting over 7,000 individuals. Over 70% of beneficiaries were women, over 70% lived below $4 a day and 61% were food insecure. The initiative leveraged Grameen’s last-mile network of Grameen Mitras, a cadre of self-employed women entrepreneurs who assist their communities in accessing financial services and government entitlements. These Grameen Mittras supported the identification of households in need of emergency cash assistance. As the UCT was disbursed directly into households’ bank accounts, the Grameen Mittras also provided households with financial literacy support to help them consider their options for using the UCT to meet their immediate needs.
As documented in the appended evaluation report of the initiative and online stories, the use of digital technology to select beneficiaries and disburse the UCT payments made the program highly successful. GFI built a smart logic-based mobile application called the “Grameen for Giving”, based on a comprehensive vulnerability Index, which enabled instant profiling and decision-making regarding the beneficiary selection using participatory wealth ranking. The Index comprises a range of parameters, including poverty status, whether the household had any member suffering from chronic disease or was disabled, was dependent on migration and remittances, faced job losses, were headed by single parents, or included orphaned and vulnerable children or old age people without the support of their families. It gave high importance to community feedback and reduced exclusions by employing a participatory recommendation approach.
Grameen believes that in a large scale crisis, UCT is an excellent instrument for sustenance and quick emergency relief especially for poor and vulnerable households (both socially and economically). Specifically, the UCT program has the following advantages:
In addition, the UCT program has the advantage of simplicity. It empowers the beneficiary households by vesting the power of effective cash utilization in the hands of the respective households. This flexibility enables recipient households to prioritize their needs. Each household faces a different challenge and has different needs ranging from food security; household expenses; medical expenses or education expenses, etc. With cash in hand and the power to decide its use, it provides flexibility to these households to use it for the most emergent need, which is the biggest challenge currently.
While it is urgent and critical for the global community to address the shortfalls in the health system and support the poor and vulnerable communities, Grameen recognizes that adequate support needs to be provided to the healthcare workers and their families who are frontline workers in this fight against the pandemic and are losing their lives and health due to continuous exposure to the infected patients. Health workers come in close contact with the patients, thus getting exposed to a heavy viral load, increasing their chances of severe infection.