On April 25th, India’s Covid-19 cases surged to horrific levels—349,000 new cases were reported, which are more cases than any other country has reported on one day. Hospitals are packed with new patients and doctors are depleted of critical supplies such as oxygen and ventilators.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a huge push to manufacture ventilators. Last spring, companies in the US such as General Motors produced plenty of ventilators under government orders. However, as our understanding of Covid-19 improved over time, doctors realized that they could use less invasive methods to treat patients with less severe cases, and the demand for ventilators eased considerably. This left America with an excess of ventilators that could now be used by patients in India who need them desperately.
Chakshu Saharan, a UK-based tech entrepreneur, helped launch an initiative called Help India Breathe that is raising funds to ship ventilators and CPAP machines to India as quickly as possible. According to Saharan, “things have started to escalate in the past few days,” and that “every day [they’re] now getting worse news.”
Help India Breathe is reaching out to companies like General Motors that started projects in other countries earlier in the pandemic to prepare for the potential need for thousands of ventilators and other technology to fight the virus. Saharan and her partners will use any money raised to buy some of these machines at cost and send them directly to India, saying that “they’re ready to be shipped… all we need is funding.”
Help India Breathe is aiming to buy and send 50 ventilators, but there are as many as 10,000 devices available. The US, UK, and other governments are also doing what they can to send extra ventilators and other medical supplies such as vaccines or materials to make vaccines to India straight away.
This speaks to the essential role of the government to manage strategies to combat the next pandemic. It’s not enough to have access to the right medical supplies, but there must be a plan that covers support from manufacturers, the distribution model to get these resources to the patients, and also training for those who will need to operate the tech in case of a devastating surge.
Now, much of the burden falls on volunteer and non-profit groups such as Saharan’s. Help India Breathe hopes to order ventilators from the Ventilator Project, a non-profit that recently got approval from the FDA for a ventilator that is the fraction of the price of the ones used in ICUs. The group is also working with Janvikas, an Indian non-profit that is tracking the current need for supplies.
If you’re looking for ways to contribute to aid in India, here is a list of additional organizations providing relief and medical aid:
Making the Difference. This organization is helping provide medical supplies for public hospitals and nursing homes in Mumbai as well as grocery and ration kits to daily wage earners. Details on how to donate here.
Rapid Response. As India’s premier disaster-response and preparedness service, this organization is seeking donations to provide dry food goods to families across the country. Details on how to donate here.
HelpNow. This initiative is being led by young students in Mumbai to provide quick, 24/7 medical transportation. It is currently seeking donations to source adequate supplies and compensate drivers. Details on how to donate here.
Give India. This crowdfunding nonprofit platform was created to support India throughout the pandemic. It is currently running fundraising campaigns for oxygen supply, food shortages, and women’s reproductive health amid the pandemic. Details on how to donate can be found here.
UNICEF. The organization’s Mumbai office is providing oxygen concentrators, coronavirus test kits, and personal protective equipment to health care facilities. They are also ensuring that public facilities, like bathrooms, in densely populated areas are being properly sanitized. You can Donate here.