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Aid to hospitals key element of Oxfam response to COVID-19 in India

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A nurse attends to patients at a medical facility in New Delhi. Oxfam is providing medical and protective equipment to facilities like this one in five states in India. Roanna Rahman / Oxfam India

Oxfam is providing medical equipment and protective gear for health workers, along with assistance for unemployed workers and others.

India is continuing to suffer through a deadly second coronavirus wave, which has killed more than 250,000 people – more than 40 percent of them just in the last few weeks, according to media reports. The actual number of cases is almost certainly considerably higher.

Right now, Oxfam is providing medical equipment and protective gear for frontline health workers in hospitals and clinics, while also assisting people who have lost their means of livelihood and are without income and food. This work is advancing in the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Chhattihgarh.

At government hospitals and other health centers, Oxfam is already delivering oxygen concentrators, beds, thermometers, oxygen flow meters, oxygen masks, and oxygen cylinders. To help frontline health workers do their job safely, Oxfam is providing personal protective equipment including full body aprons, disposable goggles, head covers, disposable gloves, disposable shoe covers, face masks, and face shields. For others in communities at risk, Oxfam is installing handwashing stations and providing cash, food (prepared meals as well as dry rations), and safety and hygiene kits that include a face mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, and soap.

Assisting the most vulnerable

The vast numbers of people in India who rely on a daily wage from informal work of many types are particularly vulnerable right now. Movement restrictions and lack of work are forcing many migrant laborers to return to their homes in rural areas, despite lack of money for transport. If and when they arrive, they have no money for food, and jobs are scarce. Minority and lower-caste groups, Muslims, and particularly women and girls face the most hardship.

“We saw violence against women increase many-fold in the first wave,” said Amitabh Behar, Oxfam’s director in India. Oxfam India is advocating for the country’s government to reduce the risk of domestic violence against women and girls, and provide shelter, testing, and cash to migrants and others in need of assistance.

The crisis facing India is partly due to lack of access to vaccines. Even in India, which has massive capacity to produce pharmaceuticals, the vaccine is in short supply. Oxfam is continuing to urge governments and pharmaceutical companies to provide a People’s Vaccine: a patent-free, mass produced, and fairly distributed vaccine available free of charge to everyone, rich and poor alike.

Since the United States announced it would support a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization intellectual property rules proposed by India and South Africa, there is potential for governments and pharmaceutical companies to share the technology to produce more vaccine faster in more countries to head off a similar crisis in more parts of the world.

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