1 May 2021

India's Covid-19 crisis: 'The situation is scary'

10:42 am on 1 May 2021

New Zealand aid organisation Tearfund is providing support to families in India as Covid-19 cases continue to surge.

Poonam Nair

Poonam Nair, a senior manager at Indian NGO Saahasee. Photo: Supplied / Tearfund

A second wave of the virus is ravaging parts of India, with 386,452 new cases reported on Friday - the biggest one-day increase on record for any country.

There were another 3500 deaths nationwide and nearly 400 in Delhi - a record for the capital. The total number of infections in the country has now passed 18 million.

Tearfund will be providing one month's food supplies and hygiene products to 600 families.

That is about 3000 people, including 1800 children, located in the slums of Bhiwandi and in the outskirts of Mumbai and Western India.

Tearfund chief executive Ian McInnes said they could not stand by and watch the grim situation unfold in India.

"I think the situation in India is appalling. Even as the West or more developed countries do ultimately get control of their caseloads we see runaway numbers in developing countries," McInnes said.

"Ninety percent of their workforce works in the informal economy and the Indian government learnt how hard that was to shut down and socially distance in September last year and so they've been shy to do so again and now they have just atrocious numbers of Covid cases there."

People gather outside an entrance gate of a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination centre in Mumbai on April 28, 2021. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP)

People gather outside the entrance gate of a a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai in India. Photo: AFP

Facemasks, soap, and sanitiser will be provided as well as oxygen supplies and ambulance services.

"I think we've all realised, we've all seen it on our screens, just how bad it is."

Their partner organisations in India reached out asking for help a few weeks ago, prompting Tearfund to raise money and subsequently provide aid.

Many of the families in need do not have food as they are unable to work, McInnes said.

"They need immediate support for food, many live hand to mouth and if these people don't work they typically don't eat."

Additionally, Tearfund wanted to provide relief to families by funding funeral costs and counselling for the affected.

Initially they set out to provide $80,000 worth of aid, but McInnes said the response from New Zealanders had been extraordinary, so they were already raing their target.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we end up working with tens of thousands of families at this rate. We certainly have the capability on the ground in our partners to do that."

'People don't know what to do'

One of those partner organisations is Saahasee, an Indian based NGO that provides aid to the poorest communities living in the slums of India.

Saahasee senior manager Poonam Nair said the situation in India was frightful, as she watched more and more people die.

"My phone keeps ringing and whenever my phone rings I pray, I hope this time I will not get any bad news," Nair said.

"The situation is scary, lots of fear and lots of confusion. Confusion because people don't know where to go, what to do, whom to consult and the biggest thing that India is facing, lack of health infrastructure."

Family member breakdown, of a deceased covid-19 patient in a government hospital in Kolkata, India, 22 April, 2021.

A relative is consoled after the death of a patient from Covid-19 in a hospital in Kolkata last month. Photo: AFP

She was mainly concerned about the lack of access to oxygen supply.

But she was incredibly grateful for the support Tearfund was providing.

"The way they quickly respond on our request and the way they help us."

She will be directly involved in distributing aid to the 600 families who need it most.

"We are going to distribute more than 12,000 masks and sanitiser in the community."

Additionally, they wanted people in India to have a dignified death and that was where Tearfund came in, she said.

"People don't have money, they don't have contacts and a number of people are dying everyday so with Tearfund New Zealand's help, we want to support families who are not able to afford a dignified burial. But with this money we are going to help those families out."

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