Arizona groups mobilize to help India weather COVID-19 crisis

PHOENIX – As medical experts in India warn third wave of COVID-19 cases could hit the subcontinent this autumn, Arizona Native Americans work together to provide aid, from cash for oxygen tanks to a helpline for frontline workers.

“India was not doing so badly compared to us here in the United States initially,” said Ritu Daryani, Phoenix chapter coordinator for Sewa International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization rooted in the Hindu religion, according to its website.

“Initially, we focused on helping vulnerable communities in Arizona first. It wasn’t until the second wave hit India earlier this year that we refocused our efforts. “

The Arizona Department of Health Services has recorded more than 890,000 cases of COVID-19 and 17,868 deaths statewide, and 6.3 million total doses of vaccine administered.

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Although cases of COVID-19 are on the decline in India, the second wave hit the country hard, with infection peaking in May and more than 392,000 deaths in total.

Only about 5% of India’s 950 million eligible people have been fully immunized, leaving several million people vulnerable infections and deaths, Reuters reported.

The New Indian Express reports that India saw an average vaccination rate of over 3.1 million per day in June, gaining momentum from the 1.6 million vaccinations per day at the height of the second wave.

Delta, the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus discovered in India this year, is believed to be more resistant to vaccines and was detected in 99% of UK COVID-19 test results, according to American News and World Report.

Mohan Subramanian, member of the board of directors of the Southern Arizona Indian Society, said he was confident people would contribute to his Help India campaign, even though Tucson’s Native American community is relatively small.

“In the Tucson area, we are not a very large Native American community,” he said. “But there is a lot more cohesion, and I felt like our little community would rise up, especially when the people in our home country were in pain.”

The campaign, a partnership with Sewa International, started with a goal of $ 5,000 in donations. He quickly brought in over $ 16,000.

“Within days of launching the campaign, we received calls from two people who wanted to donate $ 10,000 and $ 6,000, respectively,” Subramanian said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ so that kind of bolstered our faith in the community’s ability to reach out and give back.”

Subramanian said the company plans to hold a silent auction with the Millions for Tucson charity raffle organization in the near future to provide more financial support to India.

The company’s campaign partner, Sewa International in Phoenix, called for local volunteers to get resources to India as quickly as possible.

Deepali Agnihotri, a volunteer from Sewa, said the nonprofit has created a program run by volunteers crisis helpline to help frontline workers in India, as well as to provide mental health and donation information to Indians living in the United States who were concerned about their families.

“On the one hand, families here were panicking because they were powerless and didn’t know how to help their families in India,” Agnihotri said. “And on the other side, we have compiled a database of verified resources and mental health support numbers that our callers from India could contact. The line is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is monitored by 200 volunteers, and services can range from directing callers to a hospital room to bring them food, medicine or bottles of medicine. ‘oxygen.

Sewa has raised more than $ 5.3 million in humanitarian aid and sent 7,800 oxygen cylinders to hospitals in India and Nepal. They are currently working on a project to build 100 oxygen production plants to “alleviate the oxygen shortage in the country”.

Because India and the United States are the top two countries in the world for COVID-19 cases, the volunteer efforts of Indians living in the United States have resulted in emotional fatigue.

“We knew the situation Indians are facing today, we (in the US) could be facing tomorrow or vice versa,” said Agnihotri, who joined the Sewa helpline when his parents were in India. were recovering from COVID-19. “So I had seen with my own eyes the lack of information and resources available to a family in India. This is one of the reasons I joined the rescue team – it was a very, very personal and moving thing for me.

Subramanian said the impact on Indians living in the United States was evident in the donation efforts.

“People need to connect emotionally to a cause in order to donate,” he said. “The number of donations I have seen proves to me that humanity is what matters to people. It is their emotional connection.

Copyright 2021 Cronkite News / Arizona Board of Regents. All rights reserved.

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