WORCESTERSHIRE Freemasons has sent £50,000 of aid to help those in severe poverty in Covid-hit India.

The grant is expected to provide 1,700 emergency food parcels for some of the most vulnerable families whose livelihoods have been affected during the pandemic.

Health services across India have been overwhelmed by the latest wave of coronavirus, and Freemasonry, through the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), is responding with Plan International to support them by providing essential items and training.

Hospitals across the country are reporting record-breaking daily case numbers, with oxygen for ventilators running scarce. A deadly transmission rate means disaster is unfolding for children, families, and communities.

In early May there were more than 414,000 new confirmed cases as well as over 3,800 deaths and the country’s death toll is still dramatically climbing.

UP to the start of last month, India’s daily Covid-19 death toll accounted for half the total reported cases in the world according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Five states account for over half of India’s Covid-19 cases – Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh – and deaths have been concentrated in urban areas, especially Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab.

Millions of families have already exhausted their savings during a five-month lockdown across the country.

Livelihoods and jobs have been lost, and families all over India are struggling to afford necessities like food and hygiene materials needed to stay safe.

The collapse of savings coupled with food shortages mean thousands and thousands of children, especially girls, are going hungry.

Worcestershire Freemasons contributed to the grant, from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK, said: “We’re very grateful for this generous grant which will allow Plan International to reach families and young children in those parts of India hardest hit by the virus.

"It’s critical that we act now to provide this support to those most at risk”.

Robert Vaughan, head of Worcestershire Freemasons said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Plan International with their relief effort in India.

"This is a desperate situation and Plan International and the other organisations responding on the ground need all the help and support we can offer."