Oxfam responds to deadly COVID-19 wave in India

Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 30 Apr 2021

Oxfam has deployed teams to five of the worst-hit states in India where a second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the country. The international organisation is urgently appealing for $4 million to fund its emergency response to the crisis.

Teams have already started providing face masks, hand sanitiser 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 marginalised groups, and handwashing stations in public spaces. 

Pankaj Anand, Oxfam India’s Humanitarian and Programs 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: “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 marginalised groups who may be stranded in the open and will be hit hardest by lockdowns and the economic shock. Oxfam India is preparing to provide food rations and cash assistance to help the most vulnerable people to survive the coming weeks.”

For interviews, contact Lily Partland on 0418 118 687 / lilyp@oxfam.org.au

Notes to editors: 

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 marginalised groups.

The sudden spike in cases of 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.