•   
  •   

World India Covid aid 'not reaching those in need'

13:56  06 may  2021
13:56  06 may  2021 Source:   bbc.com

How deadly is India's Covid variant and is it REALLY behind crisis?

  How deadly is India's Covid variant and is it REALLY behind crisis? Doctors on the frontline have blamed the B.1.617 strain for the raging second wave that is killing nearly 3,000 Indians a day. But UK scientists have accused India of being too complacent.Doctors on the frontline claim the B.1.617 strain is responsible for the raging second wave which has sparked hundreds of thousands of new infections each day and left the country with a crippling shortage of oxygen and hospital beds.

As India's devastating Covid-19 crisis mounted last month, countries around the world began sending emergency medical supplies to help stem the surge.

a man standing next to a truck: Emergency aid began arriving in Delhi last week © Getty Images Emergency aid began arriving in Delhi last week

Planeloads of ventilators, medicines and oxygen equipment began pouring into India, from countries including the UK and the US, at the start of last week. By Sunday, some 300 tonnes of supplies on 25 flights had arrived at Delhi International Airport alone.

But - as cases continue to reach record levels across the country - concerns are mounting about delays in supplying the aid to those most in need.

Flights from India could resume in weeks, PM says

  Flights from India could resume in weeks, PM says Flights from India to Australia are likely to resume within weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

For several days, much of the cargo sat in airport hangars as hospitals called for more support. The supplies did not begin being distributed until as late as Monday evening - more than a week after the first batch of emergency assistance arrived, state officials have told local media.

The Indian government has strongly denied there is a delay, issuing a statement on Tuesday evening saying it had introduced a "streamlined and systematic mechanism" for distributing the supplies. The health ministry said in the statement it is "working 24x7 to fast track and clear the goods".

But on the ground, officials in some of India's worst-hit states told the BBC that they had still not received any supplies.

The UK is among countries to send medical supplies to India © PA Media The UK is among countries to send medical supplies to India

Kerala - which recorded a record 37,190 new Covid cases earlier this week - had still not received any aid by Wednesday evening, the state's health secretary, Dr Rajan Khobragade, told the BBC.

Disturbing consequences of eating avocados

  Disturbing consequences of eating avocados You’ve heard that avocados are supposedly the reason that millennials are killing the housing industry, and everyone has been hit over the head numerous times with the various health benefits of the good fats in the buttery fruit. Not many are aware, however, that the true cost of an avocado is much higher than the US$1.50 you pay for extra guacamole. From destroying ecosystems and expediting climate change, to fueling drug cartels and gang violence, the avocado has become quite the controversial berry (that's right, berry). Check out the gallery to see the surprising and disturbing effects of the breakfast staple you love.

Kerala's chief minister, Prinarayi Vijayan, separately called on India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "urgently" send Kerala some of the country's much-needed oxygen imports.

He asked that the equipment "be allotted to Kerala on a priority basis, considering the fact that Kerala has one of the highest active case loads in the country", in an open letter to Mr Modi on Wednesday.

'Where is it going?'

Some healthcare officials claim there has been little to no communication from the central government on how or when they would receive supplies.

"There's still no information about where it is being distributed," said Dr Harsh Mahajan, the president of the Healthcare Federation of India, which represents some of the country's biggest private hospitals.

"It seems people don't know - I've tried two or three places and been unable to find out," he added. "It's still not clear."

Indian Americans Are Stuck Between Hope and Despair

  Indian Americans Are Stuck Between Hope and Despair The pandemic is ravaging India at the same moment that it is receding in the United States.On top of the grief and anger she’s feeling, Shindé has been struggling to comprehend the “surreal, stark contrast” between her own safety in Charlotte—where restrictions are loosening—and the catastrophe upending life back home. Then, on Thursday, Shindé emailed to tell me that another one of her aunts had just died from COVID-19.

Some non-governmental groups involved in responding to the crisis also say they are frustrated by an apparent lack of information.

"I don't think anybody has any clarity on where aid is going," Pankaj Anand, Oxfam India's director of programme and advocacy, told the BBC. "There is no tracker on any website giving you an answer."

  • Why Indian bosses overseas are sending aid
  • India is a Covid disaster - it didn't have to be
  • A visual guide to the Covid crisis in India

An alleged absence of information about the relief distribution effort is raising questions - even in foreign donor countries - about where the aid is going.

On Friday, the issue was raised at a US state department briefing, when a reporter demanded "accountability for the US taxpayers' money" being sent to India, and asked if the US government was tracking the aid's whereabouts.

"Rest assured that the United States is committed to making sure that our partners in India are taken care of in this crisis," the state department's spokesperson said in response.

The BBC asked the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office if it had any knowledge of where the country's aid - including its shipments of more than 1,000 ventilators - had been distributed.

More Covid-19 aid lands in India as Canada, Brazil struggle with outbreaks

  More Covid-19 aid lands in India as Canada, Brazil struggle with outbreaks India struggled to contain one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks with nearly 400,000 new infections reported Sunday , as more international aid arrived in the South Asian nation to help end the crisis.Read the latest news and updates on India's Covid emergency.Surges in Brazil and Canada also highlighted the persistent threat of the pandemic, with the Covid-19 death toll approaching 3.2 million even as many nations ramp up their vaccination drives.

In response the FCDO said "the UK has been working with the Indian Red Cross and Government of India to ensure transfer of medical equipment from the UK is as efficient as possible".

"Distribution processes and decisions on exactly where support provided by the UK will be deployed are matters for the Government of India."

Opposition politicians in India have also called for the government to release more information about how its relief effort is going."We request and demand from the government... Share it with every Indian: Where has this aid come from, and where is it going?" said Pawan Khera, a spokesperson for the opposition Congress party. "You owe it to the public."

'Streamlined distribution'

It took the Indian government seven days to create a "streamlined mechanism" to distribute supplies to states, according to the health ministry.

a group of people sitting at a table: India's government says it has introduced a © Getty Images India's government says it has introduced a "streamlined mechanism" to handle Covid aid

It began work on the plan on 26 April, and issued its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) - guidelines on how to distribute aid - on 2 May, it said in a press release. It did not say when aid distribution began.

Even when shipments land in India, the distribution process is complex - involving various stages, ministries and outside agencies.

India is a Covid tragedy - it didn't have to be

  India is a Covid tragedy - it didn't have to be Experts tell the BBC that delays in decision-making worsened the crisis of India's second wave.As he spoke, several small hospitals - only a few miles from where he stood in the capital - were sending out desperate messages about them running out of oxygen, putting patients' lives at risk.

After relief flights arrive, aid is received by the Indian Red Cross Society, which is responsible for taking it through customs, according to the government's statement. The shipments are then handed over to another agency, HLL Lifecare, which handles the goods and subsequently transports them across the country.

Because supplies are arriving in various forms, authorities have to "unpack [and] repack" them before they can be dispatched, further slowing the process, the government admits.

"The materials from abroad are currently coming in different numbers, specifications and at different times," the government said. "In many cases the items received are not as per the list, or the quantities differ, which needs reconciling at the airport."

Once the materials are repacked, they are allocated to areas where "critical care patients load is high and where the need is highest".

'Working 24/7'

Despite the logistical challenges, India's central government says it is "working 24x7" to send supplies to strained areas. It said aid had been dispatched to some 38 institutions in 31 states by Tuesday evening.

One badly-hit state, Punjab, has received 100 oxygen concentrators and 2,500 doses of the life-saving drug remdesivir, a state official told the BBC on Wednesday.

The air force airlifted the "first batch" of 450 oxygen cylinders from the UK to Chennai (Madras) in southern Tamil Nadu state on Tuesday, the city's customs authority said on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/ChennaiCustoms/status/1389406926904061954?s=20

Kamala Harris' Indian Uncle Unbothered By Delayed U.S. Response to Country's COVID Surge

  Kamala Harris' Indian Uncle Unbothered By Delayed U.S. Response to Country's COVID Surge The uncle of Vice President Kamala Harris said he does not blame his niece for the United States' delayed response to sending aid to India as cases surge.Harris' uncle, G. Balachandranm who is retired, vaccinated and largely stays at home alone, told the Associated Press "the conditions are pretty bad in India.

Of 1,088 oxygen concentrators flown in from Hong Kong, some 738 remained in Delhi while 350 had been sent on Mumbai, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, trainloads of oxygen - nicknamed the "Oxygen Express" by officials - are being rushed to Delhi to help ease shortages in its hospitals.

https://twitter.com/PiyushGoyal/status/1389764476329619463

'Oxygen is essential'

Despite these efforts, India's hospitals are still in dire need of fresh medical supplies - and above all of oxygen.

The country reported a record 412,262 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday and 3,980 virus-related deaths, the health ministry said. India accounted for nearly half of all reported Covid infections across the world last week, and a quarter of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

a person holding a cup: Many hospitals remain in urgent need of oxygen supplies © Getty Images Many hospitals remain in urgent need of oxygen supplies

Yet some healthcare professionals say what they need most urgently are not the foreign donations, but more on-site oxygen production facilities to be built at hospitals.

"Right now our only problem is oxygen," says Dr Mahajan. "Even if this aid comes or doesn't come, I don't think it's going to make a substantial difference. The oxygen generators will make the difference. That's what is most essential right now."

Two freshly installed medical oxygen plants - producing 1,000 litres per minute - would begin pumping supplies to hundreds of Covid-19 patients in Delhi on Wednesday evening, the health ministry said in a tweet.

But for many of those on the frontline of India's healthcare emergency, the wait for desperately needed support continues.

"It is frustrating," Dr Mahajan says. "We are overwhelmed... this wave has hit us, the incline has hit us - [and] it's like a jet taking off."

Additional reporting by the BBC's Soutik Biswas and Andrew Clarance in Delhi

Where will the next COVID hotspots be? .
Dr Khan explains how India’s troubles are spreading across the sub-continent, while pregnant women are dying in Brazil.India has seen a rapid and well-publicised increase in COVID cases. After a stepwise easing of restrictions across the country throughout 2020, India’s leader, President Narendra Modi, declared the country was in the “end game” of the pandemic. Soon after this bold statement, large religious and political gatherings were allowed to take place with little regard for social distancing and, inevitably, cases began to soar. On May 3, India hit the grim milestone of 20 million COVID cases, though the true number is thought to be much higher.

usr: 2
This is interesting!