The Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF), established by leading seafarer welfare charities and the wider shipping industry to support seafarers and their families devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has collected US$530,000 in pledges so far, according to ISWAN. And thanks to The Seafarers’ Charity’s agile and established grant making processes, has already issued grants of almost $400,000 to help those worst affected.
The first three SIRF grants will provide funds to three seafarer charities, Stella Maris, Sailors’ Society and The Mission to Seafarers.
The Stella Maris grant will fund work in the Indian port of Cochin to purchase 10 oxygenators, which will prevent an estimated 60 lives a month being lost to COVID-19, amid a drastic shortage of oxygen tanks in hospitals. In addition, 1,100 food parcels – each sufficient to feed a family of five for one month – will be purchased and distributed. Funding will also be invested in post COVID-19 care, counselling and therapy.
Sailors’ Society’s grant will be used to purchase and distribute 5,000 COVID Care Kits to seafarers across 10 Indian ports. The kits can be used by seafarers and their family members to give early warning signs of illness – reaching 5,000 seafarers, as well as 20,000 seafarers’ dependents.
The Mission to Seafarers’ grant was awarded to support a food ingredients program in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin), Southern India, where many seafarers are experiencing difficulty in taking up new employment contracts, causing severe financial difficulties. The program will provide 1,350 seafarers with ingredients such as rice, dhal, oil, fruit and vegetables, helping to meet their basic nutritional needs for 15 days. Indian Ayurvedic remedies to boost immunity are also being provided, as is hand sanitizer and PPE equipment.
The fund has been established by leading international seafarer welfare organizations – The Seafarers’ Charity and supported by The Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, Sailors’ Society, Stella Maris, ICMA and other charities, to raise $1 million in a united appeal to deliver urgent support to seafarers and their families.
Although the focus of the campaign is currently India, other countries remain highly vulnerable to the pandemic, including those with large numbers of seafarers. The goal of the SIRF is to stand ready to support seafarers and their families in other countries, should the need arise.