As the death rate from COVID 19 in the US spirals toward 100,000, one fact is alarmingly clear. While the virus severely affects seniors and people of all ages with serious underlying medical conditions, it has hit communities of color the hardest.
“South Asians are suffering across the country on a level we haven’t ever seen,” says Lakshmi Sridaran, Executive Director of SAALT, in a recent call to action to the community.
Minority communities are more at risk because long standing disparities in health, social, and economic status make them more vulnerable. Many South Asians work high risk jobs as healthcare workers, domestic workers and grocery store workers. South Asian workers are employed in meat processing plants, and as Uber and taxi drivers. As a result of the pandemic many face economic hardships and limited access to healthcare services or even proper protection while performing their jobs.
“So many have fallen sick. Too many have died,” adds Sridaran.
SAALT is responding to the crisis by facilitating the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations-direct service organizations that are doing critical work to support those most impacted by the pandemic: They offer services to provide food, health and financial assistance to victims of the pandemic that include undocumented immigrants as well as domestic violence survivors.
Sridaran is urging all South Asians to support and uplift the hardest hit people in our communities at this challenging time. Links are provided below.
New York, the epicenter of the pandemic
New York, the US epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, has among the largest South Asian populations in the country. Community leaders are reporting that the official data on infection and fatality rates are inaccurate and don’t reflect their experiences.
Many South Asians in Queens and the Bronx work as domestic workers, as drivers, in grocery stores, or delivering packages – without PPE or adequate healthcare. Those who are undocumented don’t even have access to government aid.
What’s more, so many community members are out of work, leading to a level of food insecurity not seen before. In response, community organizations and volunteers have shifted their work to set up mutual aid networks to deliver food and medicines and provide cash assistance and childcare.
South Asian Domestic Violence Survivors
Community leaders from domestic violence organizations are especially worried about survivors. There’s been a drop in crisis calls – because survivors are trapped at home with their abusers and don’t have the space to make calls. And, many domestic violence shelters aren’t accepting people right now out of fear of COVID-19. Domestic violence organizations are delivering groceries, helping survivors apply for public benefits, and finding alternative shelter arrangements.
South Asian Immigrants
People who are undocumented have no access to government aid or relief. South Asians in immigrant detention are stuck in crowded facilities where there have been reports of COVID-19 outbreaks and over 100 migrants could be deported back to India any day now. Even if released from detention many cannot afford the unduly high bonds. South Asians on H-1B and H-4 visas fear losing their jobs and falling out of status with dim prospects of finding another job in this uncertain economy. Immigrant rights groups are fighting these injustices at every level.
Support them at Bond Funds: Fronterizo Fianza Fund, SAALT’s local partners on the border: Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee and Avid in the Chihuahua Desert, Mutual Aid Funds: South Dakota DREAM Coalition & South Dakota Voices for Peace and Justice for Muslims Collective Community Relief Fund
These organizations are doing “lifesaving work right now” says Sridaran.