The enormity of the Covid-19 crisis in India may be impossible to fully comprehend from afar, but images of mass cremations and grief-stricken families, and stories of people fruitlessly searching for oxygen, hospital beds, and medications to save infected loved ones are heart-wrenching.
Officially, the country reported just under 380,000 new daily cases on April 29, setting another global record and bringing its total case count to 18 million. But the actual number is thought to be many multiples higher. One expert told NPR that as many as 5 million people may be contracting Covid per day in India, and the death toll could reach 10,000 or more per day before infections begin to decline.
The US and other foreign governments and large corporations, including Microsoft and Amazon, are sending millions in cash and supplies to India. Arguably, the world could be doing much more. Thousands are dying needlessly from a lack of basic medical equipment, particularly oxygen.
There are also dozens of relief agencies and ad hoc groups on the ground raising money to procure and transport oxygen concentrators and PPE, to fight vaccine misinformation, boost the disorganized rollout, and to bring meals to those who have lost their incomes during lockdowns. As an individual, these are the groups through which average citizens can make a difference, however small. Below is a list of just a few options.
The Go Fund Me platform has verified accounts of several personal fundraisers started in cities across the US, Canada, and the UK. Some volunteers on the site are raising money to send supplies, such as oxygen cylinders, to India, but many pages are collecting funds for the surviving spouses, parents, and children of those who have died suddenly in India from Covid-19.
Famed cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is the top donor lending his influence to Mission Oxygen, a Democracy People Foundation project on the Indian crowdfunding site Ketto. Mission Oxygen has organized a few hundred people, including 40 to 50 affiliates in major Chinese cities, to buy certified oxygen concentrators abroad and get them through customs into India. The group believes it can have 3,000 to 6,000 concentrators in India by mid-May, according to a recent update on its webpage.
A volunteer group launched by an Indian ex-pat and tech entrepreneur in the UK, Help India Breathe is collecting funds to buy oxygen concentrators, CPAP machines, and diagnostic tools like temperature scanners at cost, to be sent to India and deployed there effectively. Read more about its work in Fast Company.
Another crowdfunding site, Give India features several specialized Covid-19 response efforts, including one by Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust that has so far raised about US $50,000 to go toward thousands of ration kits for the most marginalized populations in Mumbai, those who can’t access public benefits. “As the Covid-19 pandemic rages across our city, thousands of Mumbaikars are at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods. Daily wage laborers, sex workers, transgender persons, and other vulnerable sections of society need urgent relief,” the group writes.
Another project started by South Asian Students in the US, at universities like Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Columbia, University of Chicago, Cornell, and elsewhere, is focused on procuring supplies to protect frontline health workers in India.
An established community group feeding the hungry in India, Seva Kitchen is accepting donations to cover the costs of feeding scores more now that daily wage earners are living under lockdown, forced to stay within their homes and unable to make an income.
Among other activities, the UN agency is supplying healthcare workers with oxygen concentrators, tests, and PPE kits. According to the organization’s website, UNICEF in Mumbai recently supported a group of 150 community-based organizations “that banded together to regularly clean and disinfect public toilets in the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods.”
PATH is a global organization working to erase health inequities. In India, it has a 200-person team sourcing and delivering oxygen concentrators, and “accelerating COVID testing and surveillance.”
The International Medical Corps says its emergency response team is working with in-country partners “following our time-proven model of providing resources that will strengthen existing—but overwhelmed—healthcare infrastructure.” In addition to medical supplies, the group is providing isolation facilities to help curb the spread of Covid-19 and confronting vaccine misinformation.
Care, an international anti-poverty and humanitarian group, is converting a stadium and other spaces into temporary hospitals, setting up smaller healthcare centers, helping to ramp up vaccinations, and securing desperately needed medical devices.
The Indian arm of this global humanitarian agency says it has supported over 100 healthcare facilities in 14 states since the pandemic began. According to its webpage, it’s responding to the latest surge by helping treatment centers increase their capacity to care for patients and providing essential goods such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, and thermometers.
The India Red Cross publishes updates of its activities on its website, where it currently lists donations from Russia, the British Embassy in Berlin, and the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the last few days. You can donate to support its operations through its official website.
Since publication, the following groups have also reached out to Quartz:
Oxfam is supplying medical equipment, including oxygen tanks and beds, to government hospitals and will be delivering PPE to 500 frontline workers in five states in the coming days. Donations to its emergency fund will also go to cash and food for immediate needs, particularly for stranded migrant workers. Oxfam India says that as the crisis evolves, it plans to meet the country’s changing needs, and is setting up Covid-19 awareness campaigns to help stop the spread. It is monitoring and responding to the Covid-19 crisis across 16 states.
Save the children is accepting relief fund donations for its work delivering oxygen and ventilators in India, in addition to ensuring that children are safe. Its website outlines how donations of $50 to $150 can help with supplies and life-sustaining measures like first-aid kits for frontline medical staff and food for families going hungry.