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 $530,000 in pledges so far, 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 from 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 COVID-19 response programme in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin), India, supported by The Seafarers’ Charity and the Samaritan Fund from 2020.
The Mission to Seafarers’ grant was awarded to support a food ingredients programme in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin), Southern India, where many seafarers are experiencing difficulty in taking up new employment contracts, causing severe financial difficulties. The programme 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 sanitiser and PPE equipment.
Speaking on behalf of the relief fund, Catherine Spencer, Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity, commented:
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the shipping industry and beyond to get behind this united effort, and reaching a total of US$530,000 in only three weeks is a tremendous effort, and an example of how a truly united approach can make an impact.
“To see these grants being issued securely and swiftly will genuinely save many lives, and for that we are very grateful to our donors. However, we need more funds! We have set an ambitious target of US$1m, and aim to meet it – so we continue to ask the shipping industry, its customers and consumers to dig deep – and pledge today towards something that is having a very real and tangible impact in saving and protecting lives.”