As India faces a deadly second wave of Covid-19 that has killed more than 250,000 people and badly strained hospitals’ ability to house and care for the sick, a number of Silicon Valley venture capital and technology executives have rallied resources to help address the crisis.
“This is a huge crisis,” says Navin Chaddha, managing director at Mayfield venture capital, who says he has lost college friends to the virus. “As venture industry and entrepreneurs, we need to get more than money, we need to give our time.” Starting in May, Mayfield’s philanthropic offshoot raised around a million dollars and delivered 1000 oxygen concentrators to India, he says. The organization has partnered with local organizations such as Oxygen for India to ensure supplies reach places where the need is greatest.
To date, India’s health ministry has reported a total of 23 million cases with 262,317 deaths. About 4,000 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours. Hospitals are running short on basic life-saving medical devices such as oxygen cylinders and concentrators.
A new local strain, B 1.617, potentially more infectious than the original one and a lax public health response contributed to the surge, health experts say. “There were just so many political gatherings, religious gatherings, social gatherings,” Anant Bhan, a public health and bioethics researcher in Bhopal, told Forbes.
Social media is flooded with images of crematoriums overflowing with bodies of Covid-19 patients. “Many people didn’t even have money to go get the bodies, unfortunately, from the hospitals, or to get them to the cremation ground,” says Chaddha.Last month, billionaire and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said on Twitter he would work to fund hospitals in India and solicit others in the tech industry to help.
“I will be coordinating grants and sourcing thru @GiveIndia @atulsatija. Please make your requests to them directly and please contribute to their efforts too. The needs are large,” Khosla said an April 24 tweet. In addition, the Khosla family made a combined donation of $10 million to the non-profit GiveIndia.
Salesforce, a cloud software company co-founded by Marc Benioff, sent a Boeing 787 to India earlier last month with over 2,000 oxygen concentrators and 10,000 pulse oximeters. The company plans to send another plane this month with more oxygen concentrators, says Ryan Aytay, its chief business officer. Meanwhile, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced a donation of $15 million to India-based non-governmental organizations.
Even with added supplies reaching India from these and other sources, there are concerns about whether they are reaching regions where the need is the highest and whether hospitals have adequate beds for patients in dire need of oxygen. At another venture capital firm, Foundation Capital, general partner Ashu Garg started an initiative called One More Breath to address what he calls a ‘the last mile’ problem. “Airports are overflowing with oxygen concentrators. Everyone is bringing stuff in, but there is still no clarity over which hospitals need the supply,” says Garg.
His team has partnered with local humanitarian groups that are examining how to make room for new beds in existing hospitals. Garg says they will have at least 500 new beds with oxygen supply ready by the end of May. One More Breath hopes to raise $2 million to set up 1,400 beds by mid-June. (Complicating matters, a recent law passed in India limits foreign donations.)
Much more help will likely be needed, as several Indian states suspended vaccinations for people in the 18-44 age group due to shortages. So far, less than 2% of the country’s 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated. “It is just heartbreaking,” says Garg.
I am a New York based health and science reporter and a graduate from Columbia’s School of Journalism with a master’s in science and health reporting. I write on infectious diseases, global health, gene editing tools, intersection of public health and global warming. Previously, I worked as a health reporter in Mumbai, India, with the Hindustan Times, a daily newspaper where I extensively reported on drug resistant infections such as tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV. I also reported stories on medical malpractice, latest medical innovations and public health policies.
I have a master’s in biochemistry and a bachelor’s degree in zoology. My experience of working in a molecular and a cell biology laboratory helped me see science from researcher’s eye. In 2018 I won the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters. My Twitter account @aayushipratap
India’s coronavirus crisis is the worst since the pandemic began, and it will probably worsen before it gets better.
Hospitals are full, oxygen supplies are dwindling, and sick people are dying as they wait to see doctors. As workers leave locked-down cities for their home villages, experts fear that the exodus could accelerate the spread of the virus in rural areas, as a similar one did last year.
Official estimates of the nationwide infection toll — well above 300,000 a day — are probably undercounted, epidemiologists say. The reported figure will mostly likely rise to 500,000 cases a day by August, they say, leaving as many as one million of India’s 1.4 billion people dead from Covid-19.
Charities, volunteers and businesses in India and beyond are trying to help the country’s Covid victims and frontline workers.
(Before giving money to an organization, make sure you feel comfortable with it. In the United States, sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator grade nonprofits on their effectiveness and financial health.)
- What to Know: Shortages of oxygen and hospital beds, along with low vaccination rates, have added to the surge in illness and deaths in India.
- Case Counts: Experts say the true death count far exceeds official figures. This chart illustrates how known Covid cases have grown over the last few months across the country.
- Travel Bans: The U.S. has begun to restrict travel from India, and Australia has banned all incoming travel from the country, including among its own citizens.
- How to Help: Donors around the world are giving money for meals, medical expenses, P.P.E. and oxygen tanks, among other essential supplies.
Here are a few ways to help.
United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization, are delivering personal protective equipment kits, oxygen concentrators, diagnostic testing systems and other supplies to India’s frontline health care workers.
PATH, a global health nonprofit based in Seattle, says it has a team of more than 200 people working in India to procure oxygen supplies and accelerate Covid-19 testing and surveillance.
The International Medical Corps, which works in conflict areas around the world, is raising money for a campaign to help provide medical equipment, P.P.E., isolation facilities and other essential supplies in India.
Care India says it has supplied hospitals and frontline workers in India with more than 39,000 P.P.E. kits, along with masks and other supplies.
The Association for India’s Development, a Maryland-based charity that partners with nonprofits in India, says it has volunteers distributing food and protective equipment in most of India’s 29 states.
Project HOPE, also in Maryland, is a nonprofit providing medical training, health education and humanitarian assistance around the world. The group says it has given Covid-related assistance in 150 countries during the pandemic, including India.
GIVE.asia, a fund-raising platform in Singapore for causes across the Asia-Pacific region, says it is working with the Singapore Red Cross to send ventilators, oxygen concentrators and oxygen generators to India. The platform also hosts fund-raising campaigns by individuals.
Americares, a nongovernmental organization based in Connecticut that specializes in emergency medical response work, says it is working in several Indian states to deliver P.P.E., ventilators and other medical equipment, as well as to educate people on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
Vibha, an aid group in California, has partnered with the New York-based celebrity chef Vikas Khanna to raise money to buy oxygen concentrators, P.P.E. kits and other supplies. Last year, Mr. Khanna ran a relief effort for poor Indians who were suffering under coronavirus lockdowns.
Groups in India
The Indian Red Cross Society has staff and volunteers running blood drives, delivering aid and medical supplies, along with providing other essential services across the country.
Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust are delivering ration kits to vulnerable residents of Mumbai. Each kit includes staples like rice and dal, and feeds a family of four for 15 days. Donate here in a variety of ways, including through Google Pay.
Ketto, a fund-raising platform in Mumbai, a hot spot of the country’s latest Covid outbreak, is shepherding a campaign by hundreds of entrepreneurs to purchase 3,000 oxygen concentrators. (The organizers are tweeting live updates.)
OxygenForIndia delivers medical oxygen for free to patients in seven Indian cities. The group was founded by Ramanan Laxminarayan, an economist and epidemiologist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a research outfit based in Washington and New Delhi.