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Oxygen to India: Israeli group dispatching medical aid to COVID-stricken country

India is in turmoil, with 350,000 new COVID cases a day and a death toll that just exceeded 200,000; citing ‘shared responsibility’ to overcome virus, IsraAID sending supplies

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

FILE - In this April 24, 2021, file photo, a COVID-19 patient inside a car, receives oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, in New Delhi, India. India’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 200,000 people as a surge has wept the country in recent weeks, a rise rooted in various so-called super-spreader events that were allowed to happen in the months following the autumn when  the country had seemingly brought the pandemic under control. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)
FILE - In this April 24, 2021, file photo, a COVID-19 patient inside a car, receives oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, in New Delhi, India. India’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 200,000 people as a surge has wept the country in recent weeks, a rise rooted in various so-called super-spreader events that were allowed to happen in the months following the autumn when the country had seemingly brought the pandemic under control. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

An Israeli nonprofit announced Wednesday that it was dispatching a large shipment of medical aid to India, where hospitals are struggling to cope with a huge spike in coronavirus cases.

IsraAID is buying supplies especially for the consignment, which will depart from Tel Aviv in the next few days. They include oxygen machines and other essentials that hospitals are lacking to treat COVID-19 patients, and may be expanded to include syringes for vaccination.

In the last week, India has been reporting some 350,000 new daily cases, more than any other country at any point during the pandemic. “We have watched closely with concern as we’ve seen growing case numbers in India and the reports coming out of the country in recent days, and it became clear that the time has come to act,” IsraAID spokesman Ethan Schwartz told The Times of Israel.

Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s CEO, called the situation in India “overwhelming” and said that sending aid is an act of global responsibility.

“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,” he said. “The pandemic will not be over for anybody until it is over for everybody.”

In this April 24, 2021, file photo, multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for the mass cremation of coronavirus victims, in New Delhi, India. India crossed a grim milestone Wednesday, April 28, 2021 of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections tears through dense cities and rural areas alike and overwhelms health care systems on the brink of collapse. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

The organization is responding to requests from healthcare providers and nonprofits in India, and is working with the the Israel-India Forum at Tel Aviv University. As well as assembling and dispatching the aid consignment, IsraAID will soon start providing advice and support to the healthcare community in India, through a combination of online training and local partners.

A municipal official, second right, reprimands street vendors for not wearing the face masks properly during a lockdown imposed due to rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru, India, Wednesday, April 28, 2021. India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, Wednesday became the fourth nation to cross 200,000 deaths. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

“We will be giving help with technology and data processing solutions that can help deal with health challenges,” said Schwartz. “And we will also be helping to respond to the devastating secondary effects of the pandemic.

“This includes mental health challenges, and we’ll be hoping to address the trauma being faced by medical staff. This is an important part of what is needed, and in a sense it’s helping the helpers.”

Milette Shamir, vice president for international affairs at Tel Aviv University, said: “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 Tel Aviv University. At this difficult time, we feel it is imperative to do all we can to assist the people of India.”

The India initiative is the latest of several IsraAID initiatives to hep battle the pandemic. Last month, it sent a delegation to the the southern African country of Eswatini to advise on vaccine rollout, and in early 2020 it provided medical supplies and training to hospitals in China.

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