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                 Calcutta Rescue Fund

                           Health, Education and Hope

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By CRF editor, May 29 2020 06:04AM

Super-cyclone Amphan caused devastation in the slums and rural communities where thousands of Calcutta Rescue's patients and school children live,.with homes and crops destroyed, food and possessions lost, and whole villages flooded.


It couldn’t have come at a worse time: these very poor people were already suffering from the impact of many weeks of coronavirus lockdown, without jobs or money.


Our schools, a clinic, and one of our mobile ambulances have storm damage, but we know all our school children are safe.


The Calcutta Rescue team is providing emergency food and plastic sheeting to repair shacks in a dozen slums, with the Street Medicine team continuing to take aid out to more distant areas.



By CRF editor, May 12 2020 08:37PM

The whole of Kolkata and surrounding districts have been designated a coronavirus high-risk “Red Zone” and there are now 300 “Containment Areas” here - areas sealed off because of virus cases. We are continuing our emergency food and medicine programme while planning ahead for the longer term.


Healthcare

Our medical team has been very busy delivering a second batch of medicines and food to 700 high-need patients. However some of our patients who need drugs have gone missing and we are trying hard to trace them.There are also 20 patients who need expensive and life-saving drugs for conditions like leukaemia, but who live five hours or more outside the city. Up to now we haven’t had time to reach them, but this coming week we are going to get to them, even though it will tie up a vehicle and driver for a whole day. Drug supply is an increasing problem, with prices rising fast and the supplier of all our neuro medicines now unreachable inside a “Containment Area”. Our pharmacy team are working to find new suppliers and keep costs down.


We have developed Covid guidelines for the clinics to run safely in the months ahead. Patients will consult doctors over the phone and only come to one of the clinics if it is essential to see them in person, or to collect medicine and food benefits. The clinics themselves will be physically reorganised to protect patients and staff. We need to find the money for personal protective equipment for staff for the foreseeable future.


Education

We continue to supply essential food to 600 students and their families, increasing our normal schools food budget by 50%. Our education team continues to use distance learning to teach all the pupils at formal schools and they have restarted teaching the youngest cohort who need to learn to read and write so they can get admitted to schools.


This is not easy, as everything has to be done over the phone. Some students have access to smartphones, which makes it much easier as teachers can share videos, provide and mark work via WhatsApp and get the kids to access a wealth of online materials. But most of them don’t and there is a serious risk that they will fall behind with their lessons. We hope to be able to afford to provide them with smartphones and data to stay connected with their learning.

Staffing


Many staff have been confined to their homes far away from the clinics . Some, such as the office staff have been able to work from home. But the hard physical work of sorting, packing and delivering medicines and food has fallen on a skeleton crew of around 20 people who live near the clinics.


Meanwhile the senior management team and doctors have decided to donate 10% of their salaries this year to help ensure the charity can continue its vital work through the very challenging period ahead.

By CRF editor, Apr 21 2020 07:55PM

The lockdown in India has been extended until May 3. As cases of coronavirus started to be identified in Kolkata, the city authorities sealed off a dozen neighbourhoods in an effort to stop its spread.

A week ago, just as we were preparing for a second major effort to resupply hundreds of people with medicine they sealed off a slum very close to Tala Park Clinic and all our staff were banned from the clinic except those living locally.


Healthcare

With just six staff now able to work at Tala Park, we are prioritising delivering medicine out to patients in remote rural areas first, then we will do a major resupply of both medicine and food to patients living across the city. Staff are making home visits to leprosy patients, assessing woundcare patients and giving TB patients individual time slots to come to the clinic for their life-saving medications. We have placed a major order for personal protection equipment which is going to be essential to allow our clinics to start operating again once the lockdown ends.



Food

After a massive initial effort by the government and others to get people enough food in the early days of the lockdown , the system is beginning to show signs of strain. The price of some foods has gone up by 20% in a week, there is a shortage of porters and long queues of lorries at the border crossing points. Some slums are already running short of basic foodstuffs.. So we know that CR has got a big task to do filling the gaps over the coming weeks and months. We will get a second tranche of food out to CR’s schoolchildren now that the government has announced that schools will remain closed until June 10.

And we need to get back to the forgotten people living in a slum in Dakhineshwar that we supplied with food two weeks ago, as well as other areas that may fall short.



Education

The teachers are making videos of lessons to share with pupils who have access to smartphones, and are continuing to support the children with remote teaching. Here is one of our tenacious 6 year old students, sitting on the railway track in Nimtala slum diligently doing her worksheets set by her teacher.

By CRF editor, Apr 7 2020 12:23PM

The situation has changed very rapidly and Calcutta Rescue is adapting to serve our patients, students and communities. The lockdown, while justified, has hit the poorest the hardest - nearly all are daily wage earners or beggars, and they have had no income and little access to food.

* Three of our clinics remain open, observing social distancing measures.

* We have been ferrying essential medication and food out to the homes of our priority patients (in one case a 120km round trip)

* We have taken a two week supply of dressings to patients with wounds (for example from leprosy) and sores.

* We provided emergency food to 110 pavement dwelling families. Government has since managed to mobilise and is doing a good job in getting food grains to most areas. These food supplies will last a family of five about 4 days. Going forward we are keeping a close eye on the food needs of our slum communities.

* Our teachers are supporting our 650 students by drawing up worksheets and ringing the children daily to provide coaching over the phone. The parents of around 100 of the children have got smartphones and these children are using them to photograph and send work to the teachers, who mark it and send it back in the same way. Life is very hard with so many of them having to spend each day in one room with their whole family. So our school social worker and career counsellor have been phoning children and parents to check how they are doing and provide counselling where necessary.


We are so proud of how our staff have responded to this emergency - with creativity, commitment and hard work. In one week of the lockdown, CR has helped well over 500 poor families, given almost 4 tonnes of food, provided Rs.3.5L of medicines and driven over 1000km... with fewer than 20 staff able to work.



By CRF editor, Mar 25 2020 08:48PM

Dear friends,

Our little charity feels a bit like a international family with supporters spread right round the globe, so here in Kolkata we feel a real sense of solidarity with what you are going through in Europe, North America and Australia. So I want to take this opportunity to send very best wishes to all of you from myself and the CR team and let you know how we are facing up to this crisis.


Starting in February, we began working on a plan for how we could continue to support our beneficiaries, protect staff, and reduce the spread of the disease, if it reached Kolkata. We knew that if it reached us the impact would be very severe on our beneficiaries, given the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in the slums where they live, the fact that many already have serious illnesses. Then there is the poor diet, pollution and inadequate government health services….


We were very fortunate to be able to draw on the advice of three UK NHS doctors, headed by Marcello Scopazzini, an ex-volunteer and now works in the infectious diseases department of a hospital in Edinburgh.


The first priority was to warn people about the virus and explain how they can protect themselves. So for the past month we have run daily health education sessions at the clinics, in the slums where the charity’s mobile clinics work, and in the schools. Posters were put up and a leaflet with targeted advice created to be given to everyone. A hand-washing regime was introduced across the charity, with staff and clients taught how to do this effectively. With the first confirmed case in Kolkata last week, it became clear that we would have to face the virus too. As a result, the government of West Bengal shut all its schools, prompting us to close our two education centres too.


On Saturday we managed to get food parcels to hundreds of our school children to supplement their meagre diets over the next few weeks. These included cooking oil, flour, lentils and soap Then on Sunday the government announced a week-long lock-down in Kolkata from Monday. This involved closing all non-essential businesses and stopping all public transport. Almost all of CRs staff have long commutes on buses and trains - so the team had to rapidly rethink the plan and decide what was now possible. On Monday we put together a skeleton staff of 20 key people who are either going to walk to the clinics or will be ferried in by jeep.


Today they ran the two main clinics, Tala Park and Nimtala today operating under the new procedures drawn up to minimise virus risk for the next few days. Street medicine staff prepared medicines to be taken out to patients in slums around the city on Wednesday - so those who will have almost no access to government facilities will at least get their medicines from CR. We have already done this with most of our TB patients. Patients needing wound-care have been shown how to change their bandages at home and been given everything they need to do this for the next fortnight. We have set up a hotline and will be keeping in frequent contact with the most needy patients by phone.


The Prime Minister announced just announced lock-down till 15 April and the impact of continuing tight restrictions is likely to hit the poorest hardest, as they do not have savings to draw on, and need to work to put food on the table each day. And food prices are also likely to increase. So we will continue to continually review the situation, monitoring the needs of our beneficiaries, and seeing how we can fulfil them.


I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of all my colleagues and want to assure you that we will stay true to the spirit of Dr Jack and do all we can to care for our beneficiaries until this crisis is over.


We are hugely grateful to all our supporters around the world. We stand together in the face of the virus, and we will overcome it. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the coming months, you will be in ours.


Stay well and stay safe.


Jaydeep Chakraborty

Chief executive


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