Oxfam responds to deadly COVID-19 wave in India

Published: 28th April 2021

Spokespeople available for interview via Skype or phone

Oxfam India has deployed teams to five of the worst-hit states in India where a second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the country. The international organization is urgently appealing for $2 million to fund its emergency response to the crisis.

Teams have already started providing face masks, hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment in parts of Maharashtra following a request from state health authorities. Distribution of PPE to 500 frontline health workers will begin in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the coming days.

Oxfam India is procuring oxygen tanks, beds, digital thermometers, and other medical equipment to help government hospitals where supplies are desperately low. We are also preparing to provide food rations and cash support to stranded migrant workers and other marginalized groups, and handwashing stations in public spaces.

COVID in india

A man waits outside a factory to get his oxygen cylinder refilled, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Delhi, India, April 28, 2021. Adnan Abidi/Reuters

"Oxfam has been asked to source electric incinerators. We will provide what we can and what is urgently needed – but it is heart-breaking to begin to understand that equipment to cope with the dead is as scarce and needed now as equipment that would help the living."

Amitab Behar, Oxfam India Executive Director
Oxfam India

Pankaj Anand, Humanitarian and Programmes Director, said: “I do not know of a single family that has not seen at least one of its members infected. The surge in coronavirus cases has caught the country off guard. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day and many more deaths. The health infrastructure in India is bursting at the seams [under huge pressure] and there are widespread reports of shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies in large cities.”

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said:

"People are literally dying on the streets or in car parks or in their homes. There is no one I think in India who doesn’t know of friends or family or colleagues who have not had Covid. We are a country that is united in fearful expectation. Hospitals and health centers are begging for equipment and medicines and oxygen. The prices of medicines and oxygen have skyrocketed. This is a situation so bad, in my memory it is almost beyond my conception."

“Our immediate priority is to supply hospitals and health workers with medical equipment and PPE so they can continue treating those who are sick. But to avoid a worse humanitarian disaster it is vital we stop the spread and so we are also preparing handwashing stations and awareness campaigns to help people stay safe. We are particularly concerned about migrant workers and other marginalized groups who may be stranded in the open and will be hit hardest by lockdowns and the economic shock."

"Oxfam has been asked to source electric incinerators. We will provide what we can and what is urgently needed – but it is heart-breaking to begin to understand that equipment to cope with the dead is as scarce and needed now as equipment that would help the living."

Oxfam India is preparing to provide food rations and cash assistance to help the most vulnerable people to survive the coming weeks.

In the early months of the pandemic in 2020, Oxfam India provided hot-cooked meals to thousands of migrant workers stranded during lockdowns across the country. In the subsequent months and through the last year, Oxfam India provided dry rations and cash to some of the most vulnerable people across the country.
 

Notes to editors

  • India is in the midst of a major health crisis. Your support is critical: Please donate at https://www.oxfamindia.org/ndtv
     
  • Oxfam India will begin supplying PPE to 500 frontline health workers in five states in the coming days. It is also procuring oxygen tanks and masks, beds, digital thermometers and other medical equipment to help supply government hospitals, as well as 900 emergency food rations to support the most marginalized groups. Oxfam India and its partners are monitoring the situation in 16 states across India.
     
  • Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 last year, Oxfam India has been working to provide food, PPE, safety kits, cash assistance and livelihoods training across 15 states (Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana). Oxfam India is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalized groups including Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and women and girls.
     
  • The sudden disruption caused by lockdowns has had a severe impact on daily wage labourers, migrants and informal workers who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The sudden spike in cases COVID-19 in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi has resulted in many migrant workers becoming stranded in railway stations, bus terminals or at their places of work. Oxfam’s field teams report that these groups, who are often excluded from government support, need food and handwashing facilities to reduce their chances of becoming infected.
     

Contact information

For more information and to arrange for interviews please contact:

In India: Tejas Patel tejas@oxfamindia.org +91 9999105600   | Savvy Soumya Misra savvy@oxfamindia.org +91 98187 79535

In the UK : Matt Grainger matt.grainger@oxfam.org +447730680837

In Egypt : Nesrine Aly nesrine.aly@oxfam.org    +201222486964  | +447503989838