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IJM and Partners provide 670 Survivor Families with COVID-19 hygiene protection kits

CHENNAI, INDIA – Curbing the spread of COVID-19 is global priority today. While the Indian government has imposed strict restrictions to ensure the same, the community in Tamil Nadu is contributing significantly to support survivors of bonded labour during this time.

Above (pictured) RBLA leader Pacchaiyammal (in orange) is a survivor of bonded labour as well as a key voice in the Leadership Council for the IJM-led Global Survivor Network. She is pictured here distributing hygiene kits to a survivor family, part of an urgent drive by IJM and the RBLA to reach 670 families before COVID-19 travel restrictions went into place.

This week, IJM and the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA) procured and distributed sanitisation essentials—including soaps and detergents—to 670 families living in Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts in Tamil Nadu. Simultaneously, field workers were in the process of identifying families who are living in extreme vulnerable conditions. These families will be supplied with rice and dhal during this week.

RBLA leaders and IJM field workers have also raised awareness among 1,500+ people in the community on coronavirus and preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) (read full story here). This initiative has ensured that survivors from marginalized communities are equipped to take extra precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19.

This dedicated team had less than 24 hours to reach the 670 families as they had to return to their homes by 6:00 PM today. This was due to the government’s announcement that Tamil Nadu will be under lockdown from 6:00 PM on March 24 until March 31. During this time, authorities will utilize India’s laws on unlawful assembly (Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code) will be imposed on those who violate the instruction.

Considering this hard deadline, this initiative calls for a huge shout-out to the teams who worked tirelessly to ensure survivors were safe and cared for while we wait for COVID-19 to pass.

“People from RBLA and IJM took the trouble to meet us and inform us about coronavirus,” said one of the survivors expressing gratitude. “We have become aware of the gravity of the situation now.”

“Reality hit many people today,” says IJM’s Antony Solomon. “While survivors are making arrangements to cope with the challenges in the coming days, they are also grateful that their own community members from the RBLA are looking out for them.”

About the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA)

Established in 2014, the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA) in Tamil Nadu state now includes more than 1,500 survivors of bonded labour slavery who support one another, raise attention on human trafficking, and take action to protect vulnerable communities. IJM and our partners are also helping to establish branches in states across India, spreading this powerful survivor-led movement wherever families are in need.

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