Initiatives to Help India in Covid Crisis
As the second wave of coronavirus pandemic rages across India, with more than 26 million reported cases and three hundred thousand deaths, the impact of this extremely dire situation can be felt all the way in Atlanta as Indian-American community continues to receive news of their near and dear ones getting affected every day.
[Left] CARE India has been working with the Government of Bihar to set up a 100-bed Covid medical care facility with doctors, nurses, oxygen, medicines and medical equipment. The facility at Patliputra Indoor Stadium, Patna, is operational with Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment.
The heart-wrenching struggle for oxygen and medical supplies in the face of severe shortage has spurred the local and pan-American community organizations to come together and join hands in their initiative to provide much-needed relief in these trying times. Coordinating, encouraging and motivating each other, a sense of urgency is driving all their efforts as the condition continues to worsen in India.
Reverend Jesse Jackson meets with Atlanta community to help India’s Covid relief efforts.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, who began his civil rights activism as a student in 1960 and rose to prominence as a leader of civil rights movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has remained committed to the causes of social justice, equality, and humanitarian aid. His organization, Operation PUSH (People
United to Serve Humanity), has teamed up with Indian-American medics in the Chicago region to collectively respond to the tremendous human crisis that India is battling.
This initiative brought Reverend Jackson to Atlanta to an event that was organized with less than two days’ notice by the tireless Mustafa Ajmeri, Atlanta Indian community’s “go to person”. Shiv Agarwal of Global Mall provided the venue and the 27th Investment Group sponsored the event.
Even on such short notice, several Atlanta organizations who have been working on Covid relief efforts in India, stepped up to the plate to attend the event.
[Right] Atlanta community members with Reverend Jesse Jackson on his visit to help Covid relief efforts in India.
Dr. Kalai Chellam Parthiban, President of the Georgia Chapter of the American Association of Multi Ethnic Physicians (AAMEP) as well as past President of the American Tamil Medical Association (ATMA), served as the event moderator. Recognizing Reverend Jackson as the recipient of the 2000 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, she thanked him for his initiative in helping India at the time of its need, particularly for his efforts in urging the U.S. administration to send 16 million doses of unused AstraZeneca vaccines to India which have been stockpiled in Baltimore, MD.
Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, National Chairman of AAMEP, who spoke next, highlighted Rev. Jackson’s efforts that enabled President Biden to waive the intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines for a free flow of the vaccines between nations. He informed Reverend Jackson that many state governments in India were willing to purchase vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson; and requested him to urge the U.S. administration to supply to these state governments. “The Biden administration is doing a great job, but we need to do much more because the need is so huge,” he said. “We are also calling on all the healthcare institutions across the country to donate in-kind equipment like oxygen concentrators, ventilators, and other much- needed PPE supplies to India. We have organizations like the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), Chicago, who are willing to provide the shipping costs for those items.”
Mayor Craig Newton, the first black mayor of Norcross, Georgia, attended the event and offered to partner with the local community in its efforts towards Covid relief in India.
Other dignitaries present at the event highlighted efforts of their respective organizations:
Dr. Sudhakar Jonalagada, President, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), said, “We represent 100,000 doctors, and we have raised over $200 million towards the cause of our motherland. I know it’s not enough.”
Dr. Parthiban said, “On Mother’s Day ATMA joined hands with many Tamil organizations to raise $2 million within a span of a couple of days. This will help the state of Tamil Nadu and will be channeled through Tamil Nadu Foundation.”
Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, President and Chairman of Board of trustees of Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage (GAPI), said, “eGlobal Doctors was born out of the union of doctors and IT professionals for patients anywhere in the world to gain access to telehealth. Currently, we are providing consultations for Covid patients in India through this platform.”
Dr. Andrea Julio, President, Dekalb Medical Society, said, “India and the U.S. have long been strategic partners in this lovely and connected world. Covid-19 crisis is not India’s problem, but it’s a world problem and we need to be intricately involved in removing bottlenecks for the much-needed supplies, medical prescriptions, PPE, oxygen tanks et al.”
Dr. Lizzy Thaliath, Physician Executive, Association of Kerala Medical Graduates(AKMG), said, “Apart from engaging in fundraising, we have adequately assessed that testing equipment, as well as high quality PPE, is the need of the hour in India. We have seen a severe shortage of medics both here as well as in India, and therefore we need to protect the healthcare workers. We are supplying PPE and oximeters. The first shipment went to India last week, and the second one is scheduled for next week.”
Dr. Gulshan Harjee, Advisory Board Member of UNICEF, Southeastern Chapter, said, “Reverend Jackson, I am awestruck to be in the same room as you. I am a global citizen as I have lived over four continents. I came from a village of 500 people that were recipients of UNICEF’s vaccine program, and today I have come full circle serving on the Board of UNICEF, a branch of the United Nations. Since I spoke 30 minutes ago, UNICEF pledge has gone up from $200 million to $660 million. UNICEF has also pledged 220 high-quality PCR rapid testing machines for India, but UNICEF’s main signature is vaccines, so it will procure and provide those at $3.50 apiece. We have pledged complete solidarity with India, and we will work relentlessly for its cause. I offer my deep gratitude for all your efforts in this crisis, from the very beginning.”
[Left] Andrea Julio, President, Dekalb Medical Society speaking at the event.
Swadesh Katoch, VP Disaster Recovery, SEWA International USA, said, “We have partnered with many organizations. About 10 million dollars and about 2000 concentrators have already been distributed in 24 States. We have also purchased 200 plus ventilators. Since the situation is so fluid, to give you one example of how fast we are working towards relief, let me share that we heard three days back that a faculty member of the Aligarh Muslim University died due to a shortage of oxygen, and just today we have distributed our concentrators there.”
Dr. Devesh Ranjan, co-inventor of low budget ventilators from Georgia Tech, said, “I’m currently the interim VP of Research at GaTech. I am here because I feel that it is a cause which is hurting a lot of students. On hearing what all UNICEF is doing, I would like to say that this is not an India crisis but a humanitarian crisis. We must have frugal innovation which brings social equality for everyone. So, I request all makers to open their intellectual property (IP) for the good of all. At GaTech we have removed the IP rights for ventilators and for Covid testing so that anyone wants to access the same, to build it in India for cheap, can have it.”
Shiv Agarwal, President Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Atlanta Chapter, said that, “Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, besides contributing $1 million in cash contribution, is providing over 50,000 volunteers to help where needed. I will recite a quote from a scholar Swami Vivekananda: Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. The goal is far away right now, and we will keep working. This is a tsunami of crisis and we must all come forward, including senators, to help India.”
Reverend Jackson then took the stage and began by requesting all present to hold a moment’s silence for all the lives lost. “I am going to speak with Congress next week and later going to New York for the same advocacy. Rainbow PUSH is committed to serve India which is the second largest populated country in the world and the largest democracy. Anytime we get in trouble, India is always there with the resources of soldiers etc.” Then he broke out in a chant and led the crowd to say after him, “We need respirators,” “We need oxygen,” “We need masks,” “We need human care,” “We need human rights,” ending with emphasis on “NOW” after each phrase.
[Top] Rina Gupta, Public Relations Director, 27th Investments felicitating Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Rina Gupta, Public Relations Director, 27th Investments, made the closing remarks. “27th Investments has been a consistent companion to India’s woes, and for the Covid relief effort it has donated $100,000. Thank you, Reverend, for your time, your compassion, and most importantly your words, which I have no doubt, will be heard loudly in Washington.” She thanked all the leaders, the media and others for relaying the message.
- Viren Mayani
Many more organizations in Atlanta work tirelessly for Covid relief in India.
Besides the initiatives shared with Reverend Jesse Jackson on the occasion of his visit to Atlanta for Covid relief plan, so many other organizations have been working tirelessly within the community.
Indian Friends of Atlanta (IFA) has been working to raise, procure and ship oxygen concentrators to fulfill the dire need in India. IFA has raised over $250,000 and procured 500 oxygen concentrators, 2000 PPE kits and other medical equipment. With the help of UPS, German NGOs, and concentrator manufacturing companies, they have shipped them to India. IFA is coordinating with District Collectors of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and other states to efficiently distribute these medical supplies once they reach India. “Please reach out to all possible sponsors and donors to come forward and support this noble cause. This is our people and country that needs our help,” said Sunil Savili, Founder, IFA.
Greater Atlanta Telangana Society (GATeS) has so far generated $18,000 of their target of $30,000. Said Kishan Tallapally, President, Greater Atlanta Telangana Society (GATeS), “We have partnered with IFA in sending oxygen concentrators to small towns inTelangana.” They are also working towards the distribution of medical essentials, PPE kits and pulse oximeters. Efforts are on to provide financial help on a case-to-case basis, working with local volunteer groups in Telangana state as well as providing food and groceries. They are also forming Covid help group with groups of doctors for virtual consultation and knowledge sharing.
[Left] Sunil Savili, Founder, Indian Friends of Atlanta organising oxygen concentrators to be shipped to India.
India American Cultural Association (IACA) has collected $11,500 from members and supporters towards relief efforts. “We are talking to U.S. based organizations such as CARE, United Way and UNICEF for helping operations in India. We may pool our collections and contribute towards multiple medical needs and different geographical locations in India, ” said Chand Akkineni, President, IACA.
Kiran Manchikanti, Vice President, IT, UPS was instrumental in arranging free UPS deliveries for many community organizations. “We all need to thank Kiran Manchikanti for reaching out to UPS. It was a great service,” said Akkineni.
[Right] Drs. Anu Bhat and Subrahmanya Bhat with their son Kiran Bhat.
The Subra, Anu and Kiran Bhat Foundation, founded by Atlanta- based Drs. Subrahmanya and Anu Bhat, has donated approximately $50,000. Said Dr. Anu Bhat, “We have been donating through SEWA International, AKMG, NAVIKA, AAPI, GAPI, Rotary as also to smaller communities like Connect Henry and others.”
Pan IIT USA has procured 150 oxygen concentrators to send to India. “The concentrators will be shipped directly from New Jersey to Mumbai,” said Atlanta-based Sudhir Agarwal, President, Pan IIT, Southeast Chapter.
Bengali Association of Greater Atlanta (BAGA) has raised money, procured and sent across a shipment of oxygen concentrators to West Bengal. This was followed by procurement of medical equipment and PPE kits as well as setting up a 25-bed Covid hospital in rural Bengal as donations continued to come in from BAGA community through the efforts of BAGA Youth Committee. Next, they plan to support vaccination effort across India. “From the beginning our focus was to provide Covid relief to people of Bengal and nearby region within a very short span of time. We started partnering with various organizations who are providing various type of Covid relief across eastern region. We also joined hands with other Atlanta area organizations to petition the U.S. government through Reverend Jesse Jackson for releasing additional funds, medical equipment and vaccines for India,” said Avijit Saha, President, BAGA.
Covid relief and help underway through the efforts of Greater Atlanta Telangana Society.
Rajasthan Association of Georgia, Atlanta has delivered 15 BiPAP machines, 75 body bags and masks to Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College in Ajmer. They had previously sent 24 oxygen concentrators as well. Association member, Dr. Deepti Singh, has been instrumental in these efforts. “Now we are planning to send some money for food and medicine to different organizations in rural areas,” said Sunil Mathur, President of the Association.
Dhoop Chaoon, the Hindi theater group in Atlanta, raised $1200 from amongst its members to donate to IFA and join hands in its efforts. “As a performing arts group, it is our duty to create positive atmosphere. In this hard time, we are joining hands with the Atlanta community in the donation drive,” said Sandhya
Bhagat, Founder, Dhoop Chaoon.
Telugu Association of Metro Atlanta (TAMA) has extended support in procuring multipara monitors, oxygen concentrators, medical kits, non-rebreather masks, non-invasive ventilation and regular masks. They are working to support Covid relief centers, vaccination drives and government initiatives in those areas. “TAMA is working with many organizations in achieving these goals,” said SaiRam Karumanchi, General Secretary, TAMA.
Besides local organizations, many pan-American community organizations with local presence and members in the Atlanta community have also been organizing their efforts from here.
Telugu Association of North America (TANA) also has procured 280 oxygen concentrators and shipped them to Hyderabad with help from UPS to deliver for free. “We are trying to procure more quality ones through more reliable sources,” said Atlanta-based Srinivas Lavu, Director, TANA.
Vibha has come together with celebrity chef Vikas Khanna who helped organize millions of meals in India during the last wave of the pandemic. Vibha, with support from Khanna, has raised over $1.5 million for Covid relief, of which $800,000 have already been disturbed towards relief efforts As of May 20, they have procured 1100 oxygen concentrators with first batch distributed to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Over 25,000 PPE kits, 240,000 masks and 180,000 gloves have also been procured for disbursal while vaccination clinics are being planned. Vibha, in partnership with Texas Instruments and Government of Karnataka, is also setting up a 100-bed modular hospital in Bengaluru with an investment of $650,000. “Currently, we are laser-focused on this relief operation and are ensuring that 100 percent of the funds raised go towards supporting projects. We are working with our partners on ground and reaching out to rural and urban India with relief in the form of oxygen concentrators, medical supplies & food supplies,” said Durgesh Das, CEO, Vibha Atlanta.
American Telugu Association (ATA) has procured 600 oxygen concentrators and already shipped 390 to be distributed in Warangal, Mulugu, Karimnagar, Bhansuwada and Nizambad government hospitals in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The remaining 210 will be shipped on 25th of May. ATA is also shipping 2000 oxygen flow meters to Telangana and AP. “ATA will also establish a 60-bed ATA Shwasha health center equipped with oxygen cylinders and concentrators, tied up with government hospitals,” said Atlanta- based Anil Boddireddy, Board of Trustees, ATA. The facility will house those in need of oxygen especially during the recovery phase. Boddireddy said ATA will talk to ministers and district commissioners in Telangana to better understand the need of the state and send in help as per requirements.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pledged $659 million for Global Covid relief work. UNICEF India projects providing 50 hospitals of 500-bed capacity with oxygen generating machines (20-year life span) on site at a cost of $180,000 each. UNICEF is also in the process of procuring 200 PCR RT machines that will provide rapid Covid (also: TB, HIV, Strep, HPV) testing at a cost of $25,000 each. “In 2021, UNICEF will deliver 2 billion vaccines worldwide,” said Atlanta-based Dr. Gulshan Harjee who serves on the advisory board of UNICEF’s Campaign USA.
CARE is setting up at least 30 of 100-500 bedded temporary Covid-19 care centers with medical and oxygen support. They are working with the government in seven highly-impacted states as well as helping people get vaccinated, particularly in remote, marginalized communities. In Bihar, the organization has opened two Covid-19 care centers in Patna with plans to open five more facilities within the next two weeks. In Uttar Pradesh, CARE will open a 255-bed facility in Lucknow with two other facilities in Varanasi and Barabanki. They are further due to open Covid-19 care centers in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra where a large number of serious cases have been reported that require oxygenation, regular monitoring and testing. CARE is also providing oxygen and other essential supplies to hospitals in Delhi, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal. “We are working with the government, hospitals and vendors to set up at least 10 oxygen plants to increase supply in those states. We also are providing 2,500 oxygen concentrators and 2,500 BiPAP machines,” said Atlanta-based Madhu Deshmukh, Vice President, CARE USA.
Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) is working with Kerala-based Indian Medical Association (IMA) which has a network of 1000 small and medium clinics throughout Kerala called ‘I-SAFE.’ Working with GlobalMedic, their logistics partner in this effort, they have procured materials worth $500,000 which include high-quality face shields, masks and hand sanitizers. “After an extensive assessment of the situation, we have arrived at a conclusion that supplying adequate high-quality protective equipment is the need of the hour in Kerala,” said Atlanta based Dr. Subrahmanya Bhat, President, AKMG. They further plan to purchase pulse oximeters for developing a domiciliary care program.
[Left] CARE is setting up temporary Covid care centers with medical and oxygen support.
Heartfulness has raised $500,000 for Covid-related relief efforts. Backed by more than 4000 doctors, medical professionals, and over 2000 volunteers, the donations would be used to procure essential kits and equipment such as oxygen concentrators, ambulance vehicles, disinfectant ovens, mobile testing kiosks, fever clinics and hygiene kits. Volunteers are coordinating access for hospital beds, ICUs, oxygen concentrators and essential supplies as well as hygienically cooked foods to those in isolation and their families. “Heartfulness will also be releasing a mobile app which will allow anyone looking for medical help to get assistance from available doctors worldwide 24/7,” said Dilip Mehra, Director of Outreach Program, Heartfulness Atlanta.
BAPS Charities has delivered 30 oxygen concentrators from USA, and is in the process of sending 150 more. Through its network of partner hospitals in India and newly created temporary medical facilities, it is working to provide ventilators, oxygen supplies, concentrators, PPE, medicines, medical therapies, and other diagnostic services. In addition to the physical support, volunteers are supporting the families of the afflicted by providing hot meals and emotional support. In May beginning, BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi arranged for the supply of 44 metrics tons of liquid oxygen to be delivered to the people of India. It is now working towards supplying a total of 440 metric tons which is the equivalent of 60,000 oxygen cylinders.
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