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If you don’t have any close ties to India, you might not be paying as much attention to the COVID-19 crisis that’s unfolding in the country. In short, India is experiencing its second wave of coronavirus infections, with case numbers rising each day since February 1, 2021, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Daily reported cases are still above 300,000, with India reporting 343,144 cases on May 14, according to CNBC. But these numbers are likely much higher, as a January 2021 study published in the journal BMJ found that cases may be underreported in India.
Unfortunately, the country lacks adequate health care resources, including hospital beds and ventilators, to properly care for patients. People are dying in their homes because there’s no room in the ICUs, and mass cremations have become commonplace, as reported by CNN.
“A lot of what’s being reported reminds me of what happened in New York last year,” says Shilpa Venkatachalam, PhD, MPH, Associate Director of Patient-Centered Research at the Global Healthy Living Foundation. “As in the United States, there is no universal health care system. India has produced some the best scientists, public health experts, and economists globally and yet today forces of anti science are stamping out voices of reason. The people are bearing the brunt of this.”
The large size of India’s population, combined with a high poverty rate, is also exacerbating the crisis, adds Dr. Venkatachalam, who lives in New York but is originally from India and has friends and family there.
Also notable: The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the predominant coronavirus variant in India, the B.1.617 variant, as being of “global concern.” This variant has already spread to about 40 countries (including the U.S.), is highly contagious, and is more likely than other variants to cause severe illness.
Another problem, Dr. Venkatachalam explains, is that only 2 percent of India’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, even though India has historically manufactured so many of the world’s vaccines.
“Unless we start to take stock of the issue, there are going to be supply chain shortages from the COVID-19 vaccine across the world,” says Dr. Venkatachalam.
Countries around the world have started that process by offering aid to India. But it isn’t just world leaders who are helping India push back against its second wave. Every day people are taking small actions that, when added up, can have a big impact in helping India through the crisis, as well as preventing other countries from a similar situation.
Looking to get involved? Here are some ways you can help India through its COVID-19 crisis.
Right now, India has a severe shortage of medications, oxygen, medical equipment, and COVID-19 vaccines. By making a donation to one of the following organizations you can help get vital resources to the people who need it most.
Americares: A well-established humanitarian foundation with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, Americares is providing life-saving equipment, delivering PPE (including masks), and educating people about COVID in the most poverty-stricken areas of India.
Care India: This 70-year-old nonprofit primarily focuses on promoting social justice for women and girls in India, but during the COVID crisis has pivoted. It is now providing poor and marginalized groups throughout India with food rations and masks. The group is also providing frontline workers with N95 masks and other PPE.
Ekam Foundation: This NGO (non-government organization) is dedicated to providing health care for children and mothers in India. The group is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to buy oxygen concentrators (used to pump oxygen into patients through nasal tubes) for Indian hospitals.
Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust: This grassroots coalition is focused on ensuring that no one goes hungry by aiming to deliver 5,000 emergency food ration kits to marginalized families who don’t have access to government benefits.
Help India Fight COVID-19: A project of the American Association for Precision Medicine (AAPM), this fundraiser helps AAPM supply ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and medications to Indian hospitals. Task force members are also distributing food to hungry people in need during the pandemic.
OxygenforIndia: Powered by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a global research organization, OxygenforIndia strives to bring 3,000 oxygen concentrators and 40,000 reusable oxygen cylinders to cities and towns throughout India.
Help India Breathe: A U.K.-based nonprofit initiative, Help India Breathe is working to bring a specific CPAP device, developed by the University College, to India. This device, called UCL Ventura CPAP, has proven helpful in Italy and South Africa during COVID surges. Help India Breathe is also sourcing ventilators.
Personal GoFundMe appeals: In response to this crisis, many individuals have been soliciting funds to support for patients who require expensive medical care as well as families who lost loved ones to COVID and are struggling financially.
If you’re not able to make a monetary donation or would like to do more, there are plenty of other ways to help. One of the most important, says Dr. Venkatachalam, is to simply speak up. “Raising your voice is always important,” she says. “Unless you make some noise, no one will know what’s happening.”
Talk to your friends and family about the crisis in India. Many Americans aren’t tuned into it, so fill them in and help them understand why it matters to everyone around the globe.
Share news stories about the crisis on social media. “It’s underreported in the [American] media,” says Dr. Venkatachalam. “Sometimes people don’t even stop and ask how things are back home because they haven’t heard about it.”
Setup a fundraiser on Facebook. Visit facebook.com/fundraisers to easily encourage FB friends to donate to your charity of choice, such as COVID Oxygen Concentrator for INDIA or COVID Critical Care, Medical & Oxygen Supplies for India.
Tell friends about other ways to donate. Whether you’ve made a donation or not, let others know about the nonprofits and grassroots efforts that are most inspiring to you.
If you have friends or family in India, check in on them. This is a time of major turmoil, and people are struggling physically, emotionally, and financially. You can also make a major impact by asking India-based friends and family if they know of hospitals in their area that in need of ventilators and oxygen concentrators. Many Indian Americans, including Ashutosh Tewari, MD, Chairman of Urology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, are working tirelessly to procure and ship this lifesaving equipment to India. The Global Healthy Living Foundation’s Dr. Venkatachalam is assisting Dr. Tewari and other groups in these efforts. Please send requests for equipment to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Alluri A. India’s Covid vaccine shortage: The desperate wait gets longer. BBC. May 1, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56912977.
Choudhury SR. India reports more than 343,000 new cases as one professor claims infection may have peaked. CNBC. May 14, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/14/india-covid-crisis-cases-rise-but-remain-below-may-7-peak.html.
India COVID-19 Cases. World Health Organization. https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/in.
Interview with Shilpa Venkatachalam, PhD, MPH, associate director of patient-centered research at the Global Healthy Living Foundation
Ng A. WHO labels a Covid strain in India as a ‘variant of concern’ — here’s what we know. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/11/india-covid-explainer-what-we-know-about-the-bpoint1point617-variant.html.
Unnikrishnan J, et al. Estimating under-reporting of COVID-19 cases in Indian states: an approach using a delay-adjusted case fatality ratio. BMJ. January 20, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-042584.
Yeung J. India is spiraling deeper into Covid-19 crisis. Here’s what you need to know. CNN. May 11, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/26/india/india-covid-second-wave-explainer-intl-hnk-dst/index.html.