Millions Facing Double Disaster as Covid Second Wave Overwhelms Rural India: Oxfam India

3 Jun, 2021 13:38 IST|Sakshi Post

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

New Delhi: The second wave has left public healthcare in shambles. People have lost their lives due to a 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% of 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-centers (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 the 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 a 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 the worst hit. The latest report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that over 1 crore Indians lost their jobs in the second Covid wave and around 97% of 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 marginalized 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 marginalized 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 marginalized 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 centers, 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 marginalized and vulnerable communities, Oxfam India will also look at expanding to Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.

Details of Mission Sanjeevani

1. In the second wave, Oxfam India is working with the government and local administrations to deploy 7 Oxygen generation plants, 25 ventilators, 500 Oxygen concentrators, 3000 Oxygen cylinders (40-lts capacity), 11800 Oxygen nasal masks, 300 BiPAP machines, 1200 ICU beds, around 16000 diagnostic equipment of different types, and 19000 PPE kits. We are also aiming to provide one-month dry ration supply and community safety kits to 225,000 people. 

2. Oxfam India also plans to train 35000 ASHA workers and provide them with medical kits for larger community outreach to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour and also tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy.

3. Since March 2020, Oxfam India has been working in 16 states, reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable with medical supplies, food kits, cooked meals, safety and PPE kits, cash, and livelihood training.

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