Photo Credit: IsraAID
COVID-19 antigen testing center in Warora Maharashtre, India.

Israeli non-governmental humanitarian aid agency IsraAID will provide urgent support to Indian hospitals and healthcare workers as the country faces an unprecedented and devastating wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

In the past week daily coronavirus cases in India have surpassed 350,000 – the most of any country at any point during the pandemic – with many more people in the country likely to be untested and unreported.

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Major shortages of medical supplies, including lifesaving oxygen, ventilators, syringes, and more, have left India’s healthcare providers struggling to cope with the influx of new COVID-19 patients.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in his opening remarks to the government cabinet that he had instructed National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat to provide “whatever assistance may be requested” to India.

“One of the countries in which the pandemic is spreading brutally is our friend India. On behalf of all ministers and citizens of Israel, I would like to send our condolences to my friend, Indian PM Modi, and to the citizens of India over the tragic loss of life happening there,” Netanyahu said.

“I hope there will be an international effort, in which Israel is ready to be a full partner, to stop this tragedy.

“Even as we rejoice here, we still understand that large sections of humanity are suffering greatly. In any case we are ready to help with whatever may be necessary,” Netanyahu added.

Within 24 hours, the IsraAID non-governmental organization announced Wednesday that in the coming days it will dispatch medical equipment and supplies, including crucial oxygen concentrators, to Indian healthcare facilities and organizations.

The Israeli organization will also explore technological solutions to meet gaps in COVID-19 response and care, including data management, logistical support, vaccinations, and more.

In addition, IsraAID will also respond to the devastating secondary effects of the pandemic, including a growing mental health crisis, and will launch self-care programs for frontline health workers to build community resilience and “help the helpers”.

IsraAID’s partners include the Israel-India Forum at Tel Aviv University, Indian civil society organizations and healthcare providers.

In February 2020, IsraAID sent medical supplies to Chinese hospitals experiencing shortages and provided remote self-care training for frontline Chinese health workers.

Last month, the organization launched its Global Vaccine Access initiative in the southern African country of Eswatini, supporting the government as it plans and implements its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program.

IsraAID has worked in India previously, providing relief distributions, psychosocial support, and water well rehabilitation in Kerala following devastating flooding in 2018. IsraAID has also worked extensively in the wider region, including in Nepal for four years after the 2015 earthquake.

“The scale of the crisis currently unfolding in India is simply overwhelming,” said IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer. “As a humanitarian organization that has responded to COVID-19 in 17 countries up to now, we felt we could not just stand by.

“We have ongoing partnerships on the ground in India and we look forward to working side-by-side with Indian organizations to both respond to this emergency and prepare for the future.

“With life in Israel returning to a pre-pandemic “normal”, it is crucial to remember our shared responsibility to partner with communities facing the worst of it. The pandemic will not be over for anybody until it is over for everybody.”

“TAU has a long history of partnering with Indian academia, business and civil society through its India-Israel Forum, together with the Confederation of Indian Industry and Ananta Aspen,” added Milette Shamir, VP International of Tel Aviv University.

“We are very proud of our ties with Indian universities and have been blessed with the incredible students that have come from India to study at TAU. At this difficult time, we feel it is imperative to do all we can to assist the people of India,” Shamir said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.