The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown led to a dual humanitarian and health crisis across India. Informal sector workers, including migrants with little savings, suddenly found themselves struggling for food. Uncertainty regarding the nature of the Covid-19 disease also led to fear, further exacerbating an already precarious situation. Recognising the dire situation, social sector organisations (SSOs) sprang into action. Within a few days, they reoriented their work and funds to provide life-saving humanitarian aid and healthcare support to the communities.
While several studies have attempted to understand the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown on disadvantaged groups, there have been few attempts to gauge the same for the SSOs. This report is based on a study of 107 SSOs to examine the immediate and medium-term impact of these events on the funding and work of SSOs. The 107 responding organisations worked in one or more of all 28 states and 8 Union Territories, and many organisations worked in multiple states. 25% of the respondents work in Maharashtra, followed by Bihar (21%), Jharkhand (21%), Uttarakhand (21%) and West Bengal (21%).
The study highlights the impact of the past year and a half on NGO funds, teams and programmes. The findings are organised into the following categories:
- Humanitarian work carried out by SSOs
- Impact of the pandemic on the existing programmes of SSOs
- Impact of the pandemic on the workforce of SSOs
- Impact on funding to SSOs
Over two-thirds of the NGOs reported difficulty raising funds for their existing programmes, and 20% had to cut staff salaries in 2020. Experiences from the pandemic have also made NGOs change plans and expectations for the coming years. Many of them intend to build the capacity of their teams in the use of technology, while a substantial number are thinking of working in healthcare beyond Covid-19. Many are also contemplating long-term changes in terms of increasing local recruitment and focusing on specific skill sets and training.
The report concludes that the future for SSOs appears uncertain and challenging and raises several questions. The SSOs highlighted serious concerns about how they are being perceived by various stakeholders. They foresee significant transformation in the sector, which has only been accelerated by the pandemic.