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Why You Should Care About the COVID-19 Crisis in India and How You Can Help

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Some patients wait anxiously in ambulances. Some are strapped to oxygen masks, wheeled into packed hospital rooms by medical staff — but they are the lucky ones. Because for some patients, any form of medical care has become a rare commodity. Lying lifelessly on the street, those who were not able to get medical attention are mourned by their loved ones, who must surrender their relatives to the crematorium where they are burned alongside countless others. More than a year after the COVID-19 crisis was officially recognized as a global pandemic, this is the current sight of India

Day after day, India is continuing to break its own records for COVID-19 cases. Just recently, they set the record for the most COVID-19 cases in a day with a tally of 352,991 reported cases. This comes as a surprise, seeing how the country witnessed its lowest number of cases just in February of this year. The skyrocketing trajectory of cases is possibly correlated with the mishandling of the situation by political actors.

Politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are facing criticism in light of their decision to hold election rallies, which drew thousands of people into enclosed spaces. In addition, Modi expressed his refusal to purchase vaccines from abroad, leaving the buying and distribution of vaccines completely to its states. Poorer states will be left behind in the race to vaccination without financial support and oversight from the federal government while their more affluent counterparts are stocked with the necessary materials and resources to make or purchase vaccines. 

Thus, COVID-19 is starting to shift from a global pandemic to a virus that only affects the unlucky members of the bottom class. While India’s richest states have the resources to buy the coveted vaccines, impoverished ones are left to endure the pandemic and are at the mercy of other states and countries generous enough to donate. 

Clearly, political actors have a lot of power in deciding the future of people’s lives. Situations like this require leaders to make choices that will benefit the people they serve. However, this doesn’t have to be a struggle endured solely by the people of India. With the help of other countries, India has the potential to recover at a much faster rate. 

Just recently, President Joe Biden announced his decision to donate 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after mounting pressure from the public. He is joined by the European Union, United Kingdom and even Pakistan — all of whom have pledged to donate ventilators and oxygen concentrators. Aid doesn’t have to come in just the form of medical equipment from strong governments. While this is a step in the right direction, ordinary citizens like you and me have the opportunity to provide assistance to India’s worst-hit areas. 

Non-profit organizations like GiveIndia are rebooting their operations to provide direct assistance. Along with its medical crisis, India’s citizens are suffering an economic depression spurred by a second surge of COVID-19 cases. To provide monetary relief to those affected, the India COVID Response Fund (ICRF) has started to collect donations once again to provide meals and ration kits for India’s more vulnerable population. Donations can also be made to Sewa International, a charitable nonprofit that has aimed to raise $5 million. The charity has since raised $1.5 million and sent over 400 oxygen concentrators to India’s hospitals. 

International aid, coupled with ordinary people’s intrinsic desire to help, will undoubtedly play a major role in bringing the COVID-19 crisis in India to a standstill. Ending the surge in India can prevent a possible surge all around the world. We are spectators to India’s struggle to cope with its crisis; however, with COVID-19 remaining largely uncontrolled around the world, there’s no telling which country it will strike again. Over and over again, the pandemic has given the world a grim reminder — one that highlights our common humanity and the need to take care of each other as a means of taking care of ourselves. 

Angelene Obedoza is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at obedozaa@uci.edu.