2021 has begun, and so has a new calendar year in our small association. 2020 was the year of Corona, both here in Denmark but in particular in Eastern India, where our local partners are. As with so many other things, disease strikes harder where poverty is greatest, and opportunities are least. India has had over 10 million cases of covid19, and more than 150,000 people are thought to have died of the disease. Kolkata, where Ahead is headquartered, has been among the hardest hit cities in the country.
For our projects in rural West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand, the Corona pandemic has meant major delays in project activities and in some places complete closure of work due to bans on assembly and movement. That is why we have already applied to CISU for extensions of several of our projects. So far, we have received approvals for the extension of the Handicraft Project and the Food Security Project, and in the coming year we expect to apply for an extension of the Education Project. For the project managers and the employees in the field, the extensions have been a great relief, which has given them more time to get the activities back on track and revive the commitment that had been built in the rural areas before Covid19 hit.
And there is light at the end of the Corona tunnel. Infection rates in India have dropped markedly since the fall, and a huge national vaccination program was launched on January 16, 2021. Just like here in Denmark, it is initially vulnerable and health professionals who will be vaccinated in India. Although it will take time for the more than one billion people population to recover from the pandemic, our partners in Ahead report great hope and optimism among the urban as well as the rural population. Hopefully, 2021 will be a significantly safer year, both health-wise, socially, and economically, than 2020.
Meanwhile, and as we have also written before, the Corona pandemic has highlighted the need for a rural population that can feed itself and others – in times of crisis as well as in times of prosperity. The world depends on the food and craft production that takes place among poor rural populations around the globe, and without the right educational, social, and cultural conditions, it is not possible to meet such needs in a sustainable way. It is these conditions that iiINTERest and Ahead will continue to work to improve to an even greater extent in 2021.