Millions facing double disaster as second Covid wave overwhelms rural India: Oxfam India
| Thursday | 3rd June, 2021
Oxfam India launches Mission Sanjeevani to aid rural health infrastructure in worst-hit states of India, will also train 35,000 ASHA workers to fight Covid
The second wave has left public healthcare in shambles. People have lost their lives due to lack of proper medical facilities and infrastructure. The situation is getting a little under control in the cities, but it is still very grim in rural India where there are issues related to access to medical facilities, hospitals, doctors, technically trained staff or testing facilities.
Around 65% Indians out of the total population of approximately 1.3 billion live in rural India which hardly has rural health infrastructure. As per the Rural Health Statistics 2019, there is a shortfall of 43,736 Sub Centres (23 percent), 8764 Primary Health Centres/PHC (28 percent) and 2865 Community Health Centres/CHC (37 percent) across the country.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar says: “There was a time when we woke up every day to news of death of a friend, family, acquaintance. Villages were worse off - with no access to health care, no testing; in some cases, 20-25 people from a village died within a few days. No one in India has remained untouched by this pandemic. And most of these lives could have been saved if there was proper, adequate, and affordable healthcare for all."
People outside the major cities do not have the same access to social media to reach out for help or raise awareness of what is happening. Lack of testing, healthcare facilities and postmortems mean large number of cases in rural communities are not being recorded.
Apart from a healthcare calamity, India was already reeling under economic stress. The sporadic lockdowns and containment zones mean that once again it is the informal sector workers who are going to be worst hit. Latest report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that over 1 crore Indians lot their jobs in the second Covid wave and around 97% household incomes have fallen since the start of the pandemic last year.
Millions who slipped into poverty last year due to job losses are now facing another looming crisis: hunger. India already has the largest population facing food shortages in the world, with an estimated 189 million people in India already undernourished before the pandemic began
While healthcare is the primary focus at this point in time, Oxfam India is also reaching out to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food. In the long run we will work towards providing livelihood support to informal sector workers and their families. Mr Behar said: “We are reaching out to public healthcare institutions, district administrations and COVID Care Centres with medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, patient monitoring systems, oximeters, oxygen nasal masks, and thermometers along with PPE kits and safety kits for frontline health workers. We will also reach the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food, ration, and safety kits.”
Through Mission Sanjeevani, our COVID-19 response in the second wave, we have provided 96 Oxygen Concentrators, 155 Oxygen Cylinders (40 Lts), over 1200 Oxygen Nasal Masks, 12 BiPAP machines, over 5000 diagnostic tools/equipment of various types, 1630 PPE kits, 90 ICU beds, community safety kits and one month’s dry ration supply to 15,500 people so far.
In addition to this, Oxfam India plans to strengthen the rural health ecosystem, in some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities, by providing the necessary tools, training and inexpensive equipment needed by frontline health workers like Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) for early identification of cases and timely referral to health centres, and hiring doctors, staff nurses and paramedics, wherever possible.
In the first month of our response to the second wave, we have provided support in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. While continuing to work in these states among the most marginalised and vulnerable communities, Oxfam India will also look at expanding to Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.
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