The news that's coming out of India is terrifying. An average daily infection rate of 350,000 as reported last week, with a peak of 402,000 last Friday, is a grim reminder to us that COVID-19 is still very real. Every one of those statistics represents an individual, someone who's loved by a family, and who has hopes for a better future.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to our team in India, and the staff of the 12 different implementation partners that we do our work through. Each one of our partner teams has been touched by either an infection or a death over the last few days, and the worst of this peak may be yet to come.
What are we at Opportunity doing? As an immediate response, our focus has been around using the trusted network of our microfinance operators to really ramp up our health programs, using a five-stage approach to address the needs in India right now.
Photo credit: Equitas Small Finance Bank in Chennai, India.
Firstly, we’re continuing health education. This time, we’re focusing on addressing why the second wave happened - with continued encouragement around the use of masks, hand-washing and self-isolation when symptoms develop, as well as encouraging vaccines. Unfortunately, over recent days, there's been an increased backlash around the efficacy of the vaccine program in India. Our health educators have reviewed this and are communicating those messages to the millions they support in the community.
The second stage is reaching people who have mild symptoms, which makes up about 80 per cent of those infected with COVID-19, and making sure that they have food rations and basic medication to ensure they can isolate safely. The aim here is to increase survival and alleviate the overwhelmed hospital system.
We’re also working with our partners to allow those living in poverty to receive medical advice as well as psychosocial advice and support through a telemedicine program supplemented with our on the ground community health leaders. Given the rampant shortage of health workers in India, we’re mobilising networks of medico volunteers in Singapore and Australia - who are fluent in local languages and culture - to support the management of mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and provide mental health support remotely.
The fourth area is utilising our microfinance operator branches, and turning those into care facilities. In the coming days, these will become places where people can come to get oxygen, or simple medical care, using external trained professionals to support those clients and the wider community. This includes people who have mild symptoms, but who now require additional medical help, but don't have ready access to hospitals that may be either overfilled or out of their region.
Lastly, we’re using some of our partner microfinance teams to promote and provide administration to mass vaccination centres being set up. In some cases, it's been the local government who has approached the microfinance operators to do this, primarily because the micro finance team are trusted in the community. And that's been seen as a really positive step.
The need for support with battling this devastating COVID-19 wave is immediate, but we also can't lose sight of the fact that any community that is decimated by a disaster, be it natural or disease, really needs to plan to rebuild. And so, our focus is also on how we make sure our implementation partners are well placed for when things start to recover, and ensure that they have the funding to provide loans to people who will have to restart their lives.
The need is immediate. The need is huge. And we can't do work towards these solutions without you. Thank you for your ongoing support, and let's ensure that we can see India out of this immediate disaster.
CEO Opportunity International Australia