With private donors rolling back funds, those running destitute homes are not able to procure medicines for the poor.

Without funds amid lockdown residents at Bengalurus destitute homes are suffering
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, May 25, 2020 - 18:53

The coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout of the lockdown has driven private donors for destitute homes in Bengaluru to roll back on funding. Run purely on charity, several destitute homes, including old age homes, those catering to HIV-positive persons, have been struggling to buy medicines for the impoverished persons they help. 

The Impact India Network, which helps run shelters, old age homes and aid to the urban poor in slums is one such NGO, which is suffering from a shortage of medicines. Impact India Network runs several shelters for the poor in Bengaluru. They have four shelters in Majestic, one each KR Market, Woodshed Road, Bannerghatta and in Yelahanka, which house around 700 people in total. 

With the pandemic hitting hard the finances of its donors, the monthly supply of medicines for the aged at their shelters is hard to come by. 

Shortage of funds

“A lot of people have pulled back on funding because of the coronavirus pandemic. NGOs depend on private funding and people have stopped funding because they are also suffering because of the pandemic. Many destitute homes have stopped taking in the poor as they don’t have resources. These homes house patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, persons with mental health issues. Since they are poor, they cannot pay for their medicines and we are struggling for it,” said Anitha, a member of Impact India Network. 

Anitha says that the organisation needs at least Rs 4-5 lakh per month, to be able to source medicines for the aged who live in their shelter homes. “We have funding from the Azim Premji Foundation now. We used to manage earlier as we got additional funds from private donors. That has stopped coming now as people are losing their jobs or have suffered a pay cut,” she added. 

Difficult to procure medicines

The management of destitute homes says that although procuring medicines was difficult prior to the lockdown, it has aggravated their issue and there is a severe shortage in basic medicines too. Pamela, who is a member of the AIR Humanitarian Homes in Bengaluru, says that there are three branches, in Bannerghatta, Chandapura and Hennur. The organisation caters to 400 people at any given point of time. Due to the pandemic, they stopped taking in people due to fear of spread and also because of the massive fund crunch. 

Apollo Hospitals has been their biggest donors and although they have been providing basic medicines for fever, cough, cold and blood pressure, the volunteers are struggling to manage without enough supply of adult diapers, materials for dressing wounds, and also the medicines for people with mental health issues. 

After the state government turned Victoria and Bowring Hospitals into COVID-19 ones, Pamela says that access to affordable healthcare has also taken a backseat. “We get a lot of cases of the homeless with issues that need amputation, some have severe gangrene and these wounds have to be dressed daily. Before the lockdown, Victoria was the go-to hospital. Now we need more money to take them to private hospitals,” she said. 

Pamela maintains that the three shelter homes used to have people donating medicines directly rather than donating funds. “There were people who would want to contribute and we would get the prescription given by doctors who are treating these people and source medicines directly from donors. Now it's only Apollo Hospitals. We need funds for those with mental health issues,” she added. 

Poor with mental health issues bear the brunt

AIR Humanitarian Homes houses several destitute patients with mental health issues like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Sourcing medicines for these patients has become doubly hard, she said. 

“These are the patients that the police drop off at our homes. They have no home and nowhere to go. When we took them to NIMHANS a couple of years ago, they were diagnosed with mental health issues. We need some sort of help either from the government or from private individuals, to help those in need, and the people at our homes all have no money and nowhere else to go,” she added. 

Smaller homes face threat of shutting down

In addition, several smaller destitute homes, located in the city’s periphery, are also struggling to cope with the lack of funds that those who run these homes have taken loans to handle the situation. 

“We are deep in debt. Our old age home, Ashiyana Old Age Home, is located near Devanahalli. Every time we have a person come in, we have to take them to hospitals. We get a lot of amputation cases. Before the lockdown, donors would come and meet those living in the homes, spend time with them and also handover the medicines they would have bought. Some donors stopped sending monthly payments as they say they are also short on funds. I have taken many loans to help run this place,” said Farooq, founder of Ashiyana Old Age Home. 

Farooq said that he requires anywhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month to run the old age home for the destitute as funding largely depends on the type of illnesses that the persons seeking help require. 

“Sometimes, it may be just paracetamol. Sometimes, patients have to be admitted to private hospitals. The prices for medicines for various illnesses vary and without cash flow, we will not be able to remain open for more than six months,” he said.

With the shortage of funds, Mansoor Chetla says that the quality of care at various shelter homes is also dropping. 

“Auto Raja (a gangster-turned philanthropist) runs a destitute home with over 1,000 people at any given point of time. With no diapers, dressing and basic supplies to maintain hygiene, those running the home say that because of this, the chances of infection are high. With proper resources, they can do a good job, like how they were doing before the lockdown. It would really help those in need, especially the aged if either the government or people came forward to help,” he added. 

If you want to contribute to the destitute homes in Bengaluru, you can get in touch with Mansoor Cheltu, a volunteer who helps destitute homes:+91 99644 20041
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