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Project HOPE Responding to COVID-19 Surge in India and Nepal

Health care workers across India and Nepal have faced a devastating second wave of COVID-19 across both countries. Project HOPE is rapidly mobilizing critically needed medical equipment and PPE to help them respond.

India and Nepal have faced devastating surges of COVID-19 this year, with India now having surpassed 32 million official COVID-19 cases and 400,000 deaths. Now, with just 9% of the population vaccinated, officials are warning of potential future waves of the virus that could overwhelm health care systems already pushed to the brink.

Hospitals in both India and Nepal have been overwhelmed throughout the pandemic, with critical shortages of medicines, beds, ventilators, oxygen, and PPE. Project HOPE has coordinated with local partners and government officials to locally procure PPE, oxygen, and critically needed medical equipment to help India and Nepal’s health care workers respond to the dramatic spread of the disease.

airplane at the tarmac awaiting medical supplies to be loaded in
A shipment of PPE and ICU equipment arrives for distribution in Nepal. Project HOPE is providing urgent support to help health care workers in India and Nepal who are facing a surge of COVID-19. Photo courtesy Pratiman-Neema Memorial Foundation, Nepal, 2021. Used with permission.

What you need to know

  • India has officially seen more than 32 million cases of COVID-19 and 400,000 deaths, with the real toll likely to be much higher
  • After a devastating second wave of COVID-19, India and Nepal are bracing for future waves that could overwhelm health care systems
  • Project HOPE is working with local partners to facilitate the rapid procurement of PPE, oxygen, ICU equipment, ventilators, and other critical items to support health care workers in India and Nepal

India’s devastating spike in COVID-19 cases

man being loaded into ambulance in India
A COVID-19 patient is loaded into an ambulance outside Swaroop Rani Neharu Hospital in India, as coronavirus cases spike in Prayagraj on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Prabhat Kumar Verma/Shutterstock.

India has reported more than 32 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but experts warn that the real number could be as much as 30 times higher. The second wave of COVID-19 this spring brought a dramatic increase in new cases of the disease: In May, India became the first nation on earth to experience 400,000 new cases in a single day. Daily death rates hit as high as 4,000 deaths every day, but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

“Prevention is the only cure right now. Though nationally there has been a decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths since the second wave subsided in mid-June, and lockdowns have eased slightly, the risk of this virus is not over,” says Ray Kancharla, Project HOPE’s team lead in India.

“The recent jump in COVID-19 deaths is a stark reminder that the risk of this virus is not over. We’ve seen how fast this virus can spread and take lives, so we must emphasize prevention and preparedness before it’s too late” – Ray Kancharla, Project HOPE’s team lead in India

A Deepening COVID-19 Crisis in Nepal

India’s outbreak has also had devastating downstream effects on other countries. Nepal, which shares a long border with India, also set daily records for cases and deaths in May, signaling a dramatic increase in the disease’s spread. The government noted serious shortages of PPE, oxygen, beds, and ventilators during the spike, and hospitals were forced to turn people away due to a lack of beds and equipment. There are fewer than 1,600 ICU beds in all of Nepal.

“What we’re seeing on the ground in Nepal is a painful example of how COVID-19 crises overwhelm already-stretched local health systems,” said Tom Cotter, Project HOPE’s Director of Emergency Response and Preparedness, during a visit in July. “In some regions, people only have one place to go for their health care needs, and when that one health hub is flooded with coronavirus patients, the total ability to support the health needs of a regional ecosystem undergoes extraordinary strain.”

Additionally, India is the world’s largest vaccine producer, with 92 countries depending on India for doses to protect their own populations — vaccines that were put at a standstill during the recent surge.

“With disruption to the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine doses by the Serum Institute of India, low and middle-income countries expected to receive vaccine supplies through COVAX will face delays and shortage in the coming months, increasing the risk of new infection waves,” says Rabih Torbay, Project HOPE President and CEO. “African countries, of which many are dependent on COVAX, are a major concern as new coronavirus variants have proliferated across southern and eastern Africa, exacerbating the challenge of bringing the pandemic under control. Africa is the world’s least-vaccinated continent.

How Project HOPE is responding

In India, Project HOPE’s team has worked with ChildFund India, March of Youth for Health, Education & Action for Rural Trust (MY-HEART), Society for All Round Development (SARD), government officials, and other local partners to facilitate the rapid in-country procurement and distribution of PPE, oxygen supplies, ICU equipment, ventilators, and other critical items to support the overwhelmed health care system.

health worker gives COVID-19 vaccine to patient
A health care worker gives a COVID-19 vaccine in India. Worldwide, Project HOPE has trained more than 113,000 health care workers to prevent, treat, and vaccinate against COVID-19. Photo by James Buck for Project HOPE, 2021.

With Project HOPE’s support, ChildFund India has established and equipped child-friendly COVID care centers that feature wall paintings, toys, balloons, and outdoor activities for children between ages 1 to 14. ChildFund India has also been working across Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, and Vijayawada to promote vaccination awareness drives, pediatric COVID-care centers, and training healthcare workers.

In Nepal, Project HOPE has worked with the local NGO Pratiman-Neema Memorial Foundation (PNMF) to distribute medical supplies and equipment in the hard-hit province of Lumbini. Nine provincial and district government hospitals in eight districts of Lumbini have received lifesaving medical equipment. Donated equipment includes oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, BIPAP machines, PPE sets, masks, ICU beds, and medical tents. A recent shipment of more than 100 pallets of PPE and ICU equipment arrived for distribution to health care centers across Nepal.

More than 4,580 health care workers and frontline personnel have received vaccination training. Medical supplies are continuing to be distributed and trainings are moving forward.

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