It’s not over yet. And in many places – like India – it’s reached new crisis levels.
I’m talking about COVID-19, of course. While more and more Americans are getting vaccinated (and encouraged by President Joe Biden to drop our masks), India is running out of oxygen. And hospital beds. And basic medical supplies. And food.
India’s COVID death toll topped 250,000 last week, in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began. The second wave erupted in February, inundating hospitals, medical staff, crematoriums and mortuaries.
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 last year, the United Way India network has been stepping up to meet the needs of local communities. The network response efforts are led locally by United Ways in Baroda, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and the remainder of India is supported by India’s national United Way, United Way India.
So far, United Way has helped more than 5 million people, and provided essential equipment to more than 100 hospitals in the country. Before the second wave, United Way had raised $60 million in relief funds, distributed to more than 60 cities across India.
Now, the need is greater than ever before. India faces a dire shortage of oxygen and critical medical supplies, in addition to the existing needs from a year of COVID. Adding to this, many of those on the frontlines have been directly impacted by the virus, straining the capacity to execute these support services.
United Way is laser-focused on meeting those needs, along with increasing vaccination and testing sites, and helping daily wage earners and migrant laborers who are out of work with food and hygiene kits.
United Way is setting up oxygen plants in larger hospitals, to boost long-term oxygen supply and make it easier for hospitals to manage logistics. For smaller hospitals, United Way is continuing the focus on oxygen concentrators. United Way India is partnering with Mission Oxygen, a team of 250 entrepreneurs that’s gotten more than 6,000 oxygen concentrators into the country, to distribute the equipment across hospitals.
United Way of Baroda, United Way Delhi, and longtime United Way partner GE recently donated essential medical items to the Community Health Centre, Jarod -- a new, 45-bed COVID Care Centre set up to treat people in rural areas of Vadodara and Waghodia. Donations included oxygen concentrators, liquid hand soap, hand sanitizers, floor cleaner, latex gloves, bed sheets and mattresses, 750 PPE kits, and 2,000 N95 masks.
Throughout the pandemic, United Way has facilitated COVID testing, and vaccination drives with local Indian governments. Together, they’ve organized vaccination campaigns, supplied testing kits and vehicle freezers, and conducted special drives for senior citizens and other vulnerable people. In 20 days, United Way Bengaluru has been able to vaccinate more than 19,400 people in 143 communities, including remote areas in Karnataka.
Thousands of daily wage earners, migrant laborers and their families are eating only a single meal per day, because of extended lockdowns in many parts of the country. Across India, local United Ways have joined together for the Hungry No More campaign, providing food kits to the most vulnerable, marginalized and low-income populations. With the help of local communities, United Way has distributed thousands of food kits in Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Surat, and Vishakhapatnam.
In Chennai, more than 3,000 registered street vendors had to shut down their businesses during lockdown. Through the #UnitedForStreetVendors campaign, United Way Chennai worked to provide financial relief for street vendors, artisans, and daily wage earners, providing a full month's income to help cover essentials like food and medicine.
With the support of many United Way corporate partners, United Ways in India can provide much-needed support to respond to the country’s most critical needs. Beyond GE, companies supporting India relief include Wells Fargo, Cargill, Goldman Sachs, Pentair, Truist, Nike, CVS and its employees, 3M, Comcast, Rockwell, T.D. Williamson and its employees, and American Electric Power.
But there is so much more work to do. If nothing else, 2020 showed us that we have to take care of one another. No one country can conquer the pandemic alone. Now more than ever, communities in India need our support.
Please help. You can donate here.