COVID 19 Update – 31st March 2020

In these difficult and unprecedented times, we wanted to keep you updated on WaterHarvest and its programmes.

On 24th March 2020, the Indian government ordered people to stay in their homes. As at Tuesday 31st March, there are 1,251 reported cases of coronavirus in India and 32 deaths. Like all countries across the world, testing is limited and therefore the real prevalence is very hard to know. The villages we work in are incredibly remote but many of the people from them go to work in local towns and cities meaning that the possibility of bringing the virus to the villages is very real. The lock down is set to last until 14th April but obviously the situation is changing rapidly.

Our India office in Udaipur has closed in line with the government instructions. Our WaterHarvest staff are working from home which they are well set up to do. However, work across all our programmes has been stopped. This is especially tough for the clean drinking water programmes. This is typically one of the busiest times of year for us as we race to finish the construction of water harvest structures ahead of the arrival of the monsoon in the summer months. 

We are extremely concerned about the communities we work with – both for health and financial well-being. Access to medical care is expensive and few will be able to afford it. Further, given some of the best medical systems in the world are struggling to cope with this outbreak, the Rajasthan and Gujarat hospitals will be under severe pressure.  As we hear repeatedly from governments across the world and the World Health Organisation, hand washing is key for prevention and drinking fluids is key for recovery. However, both of these need water which is scarce in the places we work. Further, the communities we work with are also economically very vulnerable. They typically do day labouring and there is no provision for them if they are unable to work.

Whilst work in our programmes has stopped, we are continuing to support all our field workers and plan to do so throughout this extremely difficult time. We have worked with our partners for many years – some for as long as 25 years – and standing by them right now is essential. We are looking at ways of helping the communities we support by staggering new projects towards the autumn of this year. This is a very challenging time and we will continue to monitor our fundraising closely and do all we can to help.  

We have had to cancel our Spring Sammelan event that was to be held on Tuesday 21st April in Winchester. We are planning to do an online event on the same date and the same time. So if you are online, please do let us know (email us at [email protected] or email or CEO Nicola Floyd directly on [email protected]) and we will email you details of the event. We will be asking people in advance for questions so please do get in touch with any you might have. Om will be online from India talking about the programmes and updating us on recent developments.

Until the crisis hit, we were having a solid year with excellent programmes across the board. For the last financial year (April 2019 to March 2020), under our clean drinking water programmes, we will have built 199 water harvesting structures and held sanitation trainings for the communities. Under the livelihood programme, we have distributed 150 sprinklers and 10 drip irrigation systems and trained farmers to use them. Under the environment programme, we have built 32 chauka systems. Across our programmes, we continue to focus on efficiency and impact. Our new mobile app is gathering very insightful data on the programmes and the communities we work with. We have a data analyst volunteer who has been analysing the data to see how we can improve the impact of our programmes.

Naturally we are concerned about the current situation, the year ahead and our fundraising ability. Your regular giving donation is invaluable to us. Knowing that we have a stream of regular income enables us to plan and also keep going. We cannot thank you enough.  WaterHarvest has a wonderful family of long term supporters around it and this is especially valuable in times like this. 

We will continue to communicate the situation and what we are doing at this critical time.  We are bringing back our WaterWise magazine that many of you will have been familiar with you – this time, however, it will be in newsletter format, not hardcopy.  If you would prefer not to receive this, please unsubscribe below or email to let us know.   We are conscious that whilst the information above is correct as we write it, this is a fast moving situation and, therefore, should caveat that some information may already be out of date. I hope you are well. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions.

Best wishes

Neil Mehta

Chair of Trustees