May 18, 2021

As vaccine rollouts are starting to reduce infection rates in some countries, other countries are seeing new surges in cases. India and Nepal are among those worst affected by Covid-19. ActionAid is calling for urgent support for the countries’ overwhelmed health service. 

In early 2021, India had exported oxygen and millions of doses of the vaccine to other countries, assuming the peak of the national outbreak had passed. But by mid-April, case numbers soared, with more than 400,000 new cases reported every day – the highest daily counts recorded anywhere in the world. Hospital beds, oxygen, and medicine are now in short supply across the country. According to the Indian Health Ministry, more than 2,000 people are dying every day. 

The impacts of India’s second Covid wave reach far beyond those who are infected and their families. Approximately 90% of India’s workforce – around 450 million people – are employed in the informal economy. As shutdowns are enforced again, many people are unable to work and, as a result, are struggling to meet basic needs including food and healthcare.  

Regional spread is bringing the crisis to neighboring Nepal’s doorstep. Infection rates have gone up by as much as 550%, and vaccine rollout has stalled. The impending crisis in Nepal is exacerbated by:  

  • An insufficiently supported health system: Nepal has just 1,600 intensive care beds and fewer than 600 ventilators for its population of 30 million people, with the average doctor serving more than 1,000 people (0.7 doctors per 1,000 people to be exact). Hospitals and health centers with already limited facilities are stretched well beyond capacity.  
  • Open borders with India, which has contributed to transmission from migrant workers, who continue to pass between both countries.  
  • Poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.  
  • Not enough protective gear, especially for frontline workers. 

In both India and Nepal, we are focusing on health system support and providing additional resources for isolation centers and to people isolating at home.  

ActionAid’s response in India 

In 2020, with the help of our supporters in the United States and around the world, ActionAid raised significant funds for our Covid-19 response in India. We provided essential items including food kits and hygiene products to more than 2.3 million people. We also supported 4.6 million people to access government aid. 

Now, ActionAid’s staff and partners in India are working around the clock to support people on the frontlines of the crisis across 25 states:  

  • Helplines: We are running 14 helplines across the country to link thousands of people to supplies and medical support. We are currently receiving 700 calls a day and will provide continuous follow up with people for up to a month afterward to ensure they receive support. 
  • Food: We are providing food supplies to Covid-positive people.  
  • Care: We are supporting 20 hospitals in eight states and mobilizing volunteers to set up Covid care centers and temporary medical centers. 
  • Cash: We are offering cash support to cover basic needs and have already reached 1,000 people. 

ActionAid’s Response in Nepal  

In Nepal, ActionAid played a critical role in the first phase of the Covid-19 crisis. We provided food kits, hygiene products, and other resources to approximately 100,000 people, and our awareness-raising programming reached 4 million.  

Now, ActionAid’s staff and partners are working to provide critical support across Nepal (specifically Kathmandu, Bardiya, Palpa and Doti Districts):  

  • Health centers: We are providing medical equipment to support health centers, including oxygen cylinders and concentrators, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizer, PCR, and antigen tests for Covid-19. 
  • Isolation centers: We are supporting centers with food, PPE, and oxygen cylinders and concentrators. 
  • Counseling: We are supporting Covid-19 patients, their families, and frontline health workers. 
  • At-home care: We are offering 1,500 Covid-19 prevention kits to people isolating at home, including thermometers, PPE, pulse oximeters and sanitizers.  

Looking ahead 

ActionAid is inviting our supporters to show up in solidarity with frontline communities in India and Nepal: 

Donate to Covid-19 response in India

Local staff distributing dry ration kits to daily wage laborers in Gujarat. 

Donate to Covid-19 response in Nepal