As COVID-19 Pandemic Rages In India, Health Workers Hold The Line

The devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India is severely overburdening the country’s health care system. Hospital beds are filled beyond their capacity and the need for medical oxygen is acute.

According to the World Health Organization’s latest Weekly Epidemiological Update, India accounted for 46 percent of new COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide last week and one in four deaths: 2.6 million new confirmed cases, a 20 percent increase over the previous week, and 23,231 deaths in the past week alone. The actual figures are believed to be even higher.

“Everyone is affected and the situation is grim,” says Dr Kaninika Mitra, a health specialist at UNICEF’s Calcutta field office in West Bengal. “But it’s not all about despair and sadness. We’re hearing inspiring stories from the field about doctors, nurses and paramedics working day after day 24/7 to save the lives of so many people.”

Examinations have been postponed so that doctors and trainee nurses can be put on duty to treat COVID-19 patients. Temporary emergency rooms have been set up in train cars and banquet halls with hardworking professionals willing to risk their lives to save others.

Meanwhile, health workers are making sure that children continue to receive their routine vaccinations to prevent secondary disease outbreaks. Nurse-midwives are reaching pregnant women with prenatal care so that babies are born healthy and community workers are providing COVID-19 vaccines to which they are eligible.

UNICEF has shipped essential life-saving supplies in India, including 2 million face shields, 200,000 surgical masks, 3,000 oxygen concentrators, 85 COVID-19 testing machines and other equipment, and deployed high-level experts to the most affected areas to provide support to state and local authorities. UNICEF is also supporting the acquisition and installation of 25 oxygen plants for hospitals in the North-East and Maharashtra, and the installation of more than 70 thermal scanners at various entry points throughout the country.

“The scenes we’re seeing in India are just devastating,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “The most vulnerable families are paying a heavy price for this new deadly wave. UNICEF calls on all partners who can provide support to respond to this new wave to do so immediately.”

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