COVID-19 infection rates in India continue to soar

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Almost 18 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported in India, as the country grapples with a widespread second wave of infection.

Since the emergence of the pandemic in India last year, COVID-19 has significantly impacted on children’s health, created new protection threats, and disrupted access to education.

This week, official tallies report that more than 200,000 people have now lost their lives to the disease, however experts warn that this is likely a significant underestimation, with many families unable to access medical care as hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

Rates of infection means India now accounts for around 38% of all recently confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, the highest share reached by an individual country since the early stages of the pandemic.

ChildFund India country director Neelam Makhijani says: “The second wave of the pandemic is having a brutal impact on most states in India.

“The new surge has nearly crippled the medical infrastructure, resulting in shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, and other critical medical supplies. Many regions have been forced to implement weekly lockdowns and night curfews, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Odisha.”

While India has begun its COVID-19 immunisation rollout, with over 14m residents having received either one or both doses of the vaccine, this preventative measure has been unable to keep pace with the soaring rates of infection.

From 1 May, anyone aged over 18 years will be eligible for vaccination, but in the meantime the outbreak remains out of control, with the Indian Government’s Union Health Ministry reporting more than 300,000 cases in the 24 hours to 28 April.

ChildFund India currently implements child-focused development programs in both urban and rural settings. It is now providing emergency assistance to communities, including:

  • increasing awareness about COVID-19 prevention behaviours in communities, and distributing hygiene kits;
  • providing frontline workers in rural areas with essential personal protective equipment;
  • working in partnership with government agencies to support the vaccine rollout process;
  • ensuring the most vulnerable children and families have access to food and psychological support; and
  • distributing educational materials for children who are prevented from attending school due to lockdown measures, and who do not have access to online resources.

Ms Makhijani says: “As India continues the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the isolation, lockdown, and suppressed economic activity is hurting families around the country, adversely impacting the most disadvantaged communities.

“Through our response efforts to date, ChildFund has supported over 4 million people across the country, and will continue to deliver relief efforts to support vulnerable children and their families.”

You can support children and families by making a donation to ChildFund’s global COVID-19 crisis appeal, which is supporting vulnerable communities around the globe.

On Easter Sunday, torrential rainfall in Timor-Leste resulted in widespread flash flooding and landslides in the nation’s capital of Dili, as well as surrounding areas.

More than 36 casualties have been confirmed, and over 11,000 people have been forced to seek shelter in 19 evacuation centres. Homes, roads, and bridges have suffered significant damage, and electricity has been cut off for much of Dili.

This natural disaster comes at a time when the country is already dealing with a COVID-19 emergency. Critical infrastructure to respond to the COVID outbreak is damaged, including the national laboratory, the central medicine storage and quarantine facilities.

With children and families living in evacuation centres, there is also an increased risk of COVID transmission.

Erine Dijkstra, ChildFund Timor-Leste country director, says: “This is an emergency coming on top of an emergency. Affected families were already suffering economically from the lockdown since the beginning of March, and this disaster has added another level of hardship.

“With much of Dili under water, Timor-Leste is facing new and significant challenges in preventing further spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

ChildFund Timor-Leste is taking part in humanitarian aid coordination meetings led by the Secretariat of State for Civil Protection, with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion, the Red Cross, UN agencies, and other aid agencies to plan and implement emergency response activities.

This currently includes providing human resources to the assessment teams and providing families with food and non-food items (eg, hygiene packs, clothing, bedding). ChildFund will provide additional support as requested.