Indian seafarers are suffering desperately.

Can you help them?

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I’m sure you’ve seen the images coming from India as coronavirus devastates our nation: family members desperately searching for oxygen cylinders as their loved ones struggle for breath, while others cling to each other for comfort beside the funeral pyres of their dead relatives.

As the largest international maritime charity operating on the ground in the country, we are supporting Indian seafarers who are suffering the same fear and loss - but they’re thousands of miles away at sea, utterly powerless to help their families and isolated from them in their grief.

Last week, a shipping company asked us to counsel an Indian master who had lost four members of his family to coronavirus while at sea. Can you help seafarers like him?

Because of this deadly Covid variant, many countries don’t want Indian seafarers stepping onto their soil, so people like this master can’t get off their ship and return home to grieve.

These tightening restrictions are adding further trauma to crews who have already been living and working in terrible uncertainty since the pandemic struck.

They need our help more than ever, whether that’s the counselling and mental health care we offer, or practical support.

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Can you help these seafarers so desperately in need?

I’ve been helping a young Indian seafarer and his family after he fell ill off the coast of Indonesia. He’s in considerable pain and suffering internal bleeding, but Indonesia won’t currently give Indian seafarers permission to sign off, so he can’t leave the ship to see a doctor.

I’m trying to get his case elevated to a medical emergency so that he can get the help he needs – but even if he is allowed medical care, if he needs to return home the company says his family will have to find the money for an emergency air fare, the considerable agent’s fees and his quarantine.

They’re not rich people, so they’re trying to beg and borrow the money to get him home. They’re very distressed.

Sailors’ Society offers grants to help seafarers with emergency costs like medical care. The number of seafarers applying for our welfare grants has increased by 10 times since coronavirus hit. People are taking out loans to live, and it’s just getting worse.

Around 14 per cent of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers come from India. Before the pandemic, lots of young people saw seafaring as an attractive career to support their wider families. The cadets’ families would borrow money to pay shipping agents, in the hope that they could pay it back with their wages.

Thanks to the pandemic, these seafarers cannot get work and their families are now struggling to pay back the loans. The level of distress is worse than ever before: even people with experience can’t get a job now, and they’re in deep trouble.

On top of their financial worries, they are living in fear of falling ill with the virus that’s claiming the lives of so many around them.

Today it’s the Indian healthcare system being overwhelmed by coronavirus, but tomorrow it could be somewhere else. The Philippines, home to a quarter of the world’s seafarers, is also reporting a deadly surge. Over the past year, my colleagues there have already seen many Filipinos plunged into poverty by the first wave of coronavirus.

We’re greatly concerned about the impact this new wave will have – not just on the seafarers themselves, but also on their families and the underprivileged seafaring communities we work with. They were already struggling with poverty and unemployment before the pandemic hit. If their breadwinners can’t get jobs, things will get much, much worse.

In the grip of this pandemic, your support is more vital than ever to help meet seafarers’ desperate, growing need. Please give generously.

Thank you,

Manoj Joy
Community Development Manager, Sailors’ Society India

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting some of the biggest seafaring nations, like India and the Philippines, hardest – leaving them at greater risk of poverty and suffering than ever. Please, help seafarers at this terrible time.

All donations to this appeal will be spent on supporting seafarers and their families in need across the world.

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