BIRDS Update from Rev. Paul Raja Rao Valaperla, Director
(During second wave pandemic and ready to face third wave)

Soon after lockdown was introduced on March16, 2020 we closed the school and hostel at BIRDS but the classes were conducted online and dry ration (food distribution) happened to the doorstep of the children until schools reopened on August 16, 2020. Even though the symptoms were prevailing about the third wave in India, government reopened the schools for the continuation of the new educational year in 2021-2022. All the children (boys and girls) have come back, including the junior college. Direct classes are running for the children. Similarly, the community at large have suffered a lot with a huge number of positive cases and suffered with lack of beds and oxygen in the hospital. A huge number of aged and middle aged have died.

­Children: Children are very fearful, as the dengue fevers are prevailing in the area, and large numbers of children are admitted in the hospitals. Even in the BIRDS campus a large number of children are suffering with viral fevers and dengue. Those who have got dengue are sent for the higher treatment in bigger hospitals; viral are treated in BIRDS DORIS Hospital. Children who have confirmed with Covid 19 positive are sent to the isolation centres.

Children affected with viral fevers: 123
Children who have got dengue: 55
Children who have got Covid 19: 28
Children’s Deaths during second wave: none

Parents/elders: Parents of the children as well as the community as whole have suffered a lot with the Covid 19 pandemic situation from February tthrough August of 2021. A huge number of community members are affected with Covid positive, and suffered from the non-availability of oxygen and beds in the hospital. During this period we have lost more than 162 people in 100 villages in BIRDS area of operation. Urban deaths are more than rural areas. Now everyone is in tension with fear of a third wave. Government says the third wave may start in India in October or November 2021. One thing is real, even though we don’t know whether the third  wave will come or not, people are still feeling hopeless because there are no oxygen and no beds available in the hospital, which has not totally changed.
Number of positive cases: adults 288
Number of people died: 162

Vaccination is only the way to survive from the pandemic of Covid 19. And since Covid has reoccured even in fully vaccinated people, there is still fear again among the fully vaccinated people. However most of the people (60 percent )have completed the first dose of vaccination and around 25 to 30 percent of the community have completed the full dose. There are a lot of myths in the uneducated community about the vaccination. BIRDS, in association with local government, has conducted three rounds of awareness programs in the urban and rural areas (where masses are living with different cultures) by BIRDS staff on the importance of vaccination. BIRDS staff is 100 percent vaccinated with the first dose, and 50 percent of the staff completed the second dose of vaccination as front line workers.

Gulab Cyclone’s damage to Agriculture and daily wage earners: The agriculture sector is not doing well with the last two years of Covid pandemic situations as well as cyclones affecting the life of the farmers. From September 24 to 27, 2021, the Gulab cyclone created heavy damage to the people’s life in five north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and partial damage to the other parts of the state. Crops are totally damaged in the entire state. More damage is being seen in the Srikakulam, and Vijayanagaram districts, where BIRDS is working with the domestic child labor issue and with farmers on traditional agriculture programs. There are a lot of damaged houses and crops. Many daily wage earners were affected.

During the pandemic time we have helped 25,000 families with dry rations and cooked food with the support of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, PDA (PCUSA) and Doris Scharpf Foundation funds. There have been huge medical expenses, medicines, bed charges, and oxygen charges paid to the poorest of the poor who have suffered with severe Covid 19, even though survival was very minimal. Now we are very actively working on Gulab cyclone victims with 1000 families in Srikakulam, and Vijayanagar districts (coastal districts), where there is an anticipated shortage of daily wage jobs, as well as the shortage of food for families. BIRDS needs to re distribute the dry ration and cooked food for few more months to the third wave as well as Gulab cyclone affected persons and families.

Paul Raja Rao Valaperla