Bengaluru: In March, a sudden lockdown and discovery of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infections led to the sudden imposition of a nationwide lockdown. It inconvenienced ordinary citizens, and also led to the deaths of many. It also brought out the best among some some, especially those from non-governmental organizations (NGO), who came forward to help the needy.
Bengaluru based NGO (non-governmental organization), Mercy Mission, was one among the many organizations which did its best to help people. It has just completed six months of work during the pandemic, which includes distribution of around 73,000 dry ration kits worth Rs. 7.5 crore, for which it has won applaud in its fight against hunger and the contagion.
The umbrella organization of 19 voluntary bodies also distributed a little over 10,000 ration kits that were donated by Zomato, Feeding India and Rotary Midtown. The food was given to people in 300 localities of Bengaluru and its suburbs. Together, these 83,000 kits were equivalent to serving 78 lakh meals, said Mercy Mission.
Mercy Mission also ran 33 ‘Mercy Kitchens’, which cooked and distributed 14.5 lakh food packets, valued at Rs. 2.6 crore. Additionally, it picked up and dropped 12.3 lakh food packets donated by leading companies such as Wipro, Prestige Group, Atria Hotel, BBMP (the civic body of Bengaluru) and Compass.
Of these kitchens, six are still in operational and are serving about 27,000 meals daily since June 1. Ninjacart, a tech-driven supply-chain platform, donated 34 tons of vegetables worth Rs. 9.3 lakh to these kitchens. A report by Dr. Taha Mateen, Chairman of Mercy Mission said that the NGO operated nine warehouses in the city to store, repack and dispatch the ration kits.
Meals for Shramik Trains
Moreover, Mercy Mission was also engaged by the Karnataka government to supply kits containing meals and other essentials for the (homeward) journey of 1.32 lakh migrant labourers. They had left from various locations in Bengaluru by Shramik Express trains under the Shramik Seva service.
The NGO fed 2.85 lakh meals to these labourers who travelling by 107 trains between May 1 and June 6. The activity was funded by organizations like APPI, Unibic and Pepsi. The operation entailed setting up the ‘Mercy Transport’ which organized 1,000 trips for the migrant labourers arriving from various parts of the state.
It also transported them to assembling centres set up the BBMP (City’s civi body) before they boarded Shramik Expresses.
Response to Panic
The Mercy Mission came into being as a hurried response to the distress triggered by the sudden lockdown that was announced by the Union Government on March 23. Realizing the panic-stricken situation amongst labourers who are mostly dependant on daily wages, it set up a helpline number (080-47185566) on March 29 itself.
Till May 31, twelve volunteers deputed on the helpline had received 15,666 calls from the distressed families. A little later, the special ‘Mercy Kitchens’ were set up for doctors, nurses and auxiliary staffers who were serving as frontline warriors at six leading hospitals of the city namely Victoria, Bowring, HBS, C. V. Raman, KCG, and RBANMS.
These kitchens served 60,000 meals to the workers who attended to patients round the clock.
By June, Mercy Mission also stepped into medical services, and set-up ‘Mercy Oxygen Centres’ for patients who required breathing assistance and were waiting for beds at the hospitals. It commissioned nine such centres which supplied 1,600 cylinder to 750 patients. The helpline for that centre also received 6,751 calls and counseled 800 patients till date.
One of the most impacted sectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic were regular medical services. To address that problem, Mercy Mission also set up the an online clinic service which began operations on July 1, with 70 doctors joining it. It held 740 consultations in three months, thereby benefitting 1,165 patients.
The Mission also purchased six ambulances equipped with oxygen cylinders and made 65 trips. Yet another of the Mission’s units, the ‘Mercy Medicines & Equipments’, handled around 500 calls, issued 628 prescriptions and dispensed medicines worth Rs. 15 lakh.
It organized health camps and blood donation camps in five localities and three police stations of Bengaluru. Through the camps, 600 personnel had health check ups, and medicines were also issued medicine free of cost. The NGO also collected 20 units of blood for transfusion to 60 patients.
The Mission’s sister organization, Mercy Angels, also organized transportation and final rites of 580 deceased persons (due to COVID-19)at the city’s crematoria, burial grounds and cemeteries between April and June.
A separate helpline (080-47191135) was set up for the purpose as well, and it provided helped 47 non-Covid patients too. Mercy Angels received appreciation from several English and regional language dailies for its work. Vice-President of India, Venkaiah Naidu, lauded the work of the organization in his tweet in response to a story published in the Indian Express.
Through its philanthropy work, Mercy Mission brought together several organizations as well. Those are the Hazrat Bismillah Shah Hospital (headquarters of the entire operation), Lifeline Foundation, Project Smile, Humane Touch, Jamaat e Islami Hind, Small Appeal, Cigma Foundation, MFIRD, Hira Welfare Association, CIS, Mercy to Manking, Milli Council Centre, Palm Charitable Trust, United Foundation, Thanal and Aasra Group and Islamic Information Centre.
M A Siraj is a veteran journalist and writer based in Bengaluru