Oxfam responds to deadly Covid-19 wave in India

Oxfam responds to deadly Covid-19 wave in India

Oxfam Media Advisory: 29 April 2021


Spokespeople available for interview via Skype or phone 


Oxfam India has deployed teams to five of the worst-hit states in India where a second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the country. The international organisation is urgently appealing for $2 million to fund its emergency response to the crisis.  

Teams have already started providing face masks, hand sanitiser and other protective equipment in parts of Maharashtra following a request from state health authorities. Distribution of PPE to 500 frontline health workers will begin in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the coming days. 

Oxfam India is procuring oxygen tanks, beds, digital thermometers, and other medical equipment to help government hospitals where supplies are desperately low. They are also preparing to provide food rations and cash support to stranded migrant workers and other marginalised groups, and handwashing stations in public spaces.  

Pankaj Anand, Humanitarian and Programmes Director, said: “The surge in coronavirus cases has caught the country off guard. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day and many more deaths. The health infrastructure in India is bursting at the seams and there are widespread reports of shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies in large cities.” 

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said: "People are literally dying on the streets or in car parks or in their homes. There is no-one I think in India who doesn’t know of friends or family or colleagues who have not had Covid. We are a country that is united in fearful expectation.

“Hospitals and health centres are begging for equipment and medicines and oxygen. The prices of medicines and oxygen has skyrocketed. This is a situation so bad, in my memory it is almost beyond my conception.

“Our immediate priority is to supply hospitals and health workers with medical equipment and PPE so they can continue treating those who are sick. But to avoid a worse humanitarian disaster it is vital we stop the spread and so we are also preparing handwashing stations and awareness campaigns to help people stay safe. We are particularly concerned about migrant workers and other marginalised groups who may be stranded in the open and will be hit hardest by lockdowns and the economic shock. Oxfam India is preparing to provide food rations and cash assistance to help the most vulnerable people to survive the coming weeks.

"Oxfam has also been asked to source electric incinerators. We will provide what we can and what is urgently needed – but it is heart-breaking to begin to understand that equipment to cope with the dead is as scarce and needed now as equipment that would help the living.

"India is the 'pharmacy of the world' and yet it is gasping for breath. This is wrong. India needs the world’s help now – with international aid and resources and assistance – but it needs the freedom too to unleash its own pharmaceutical might to produce Covid vaccines and not be bound by the patents and licenses and deals that it has had to make with the big pharmaceutical companies.

To arrange an interview, please contact:  

Oxfam Ireland

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Joannne O' Connor | irl-media@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

Oxfam India

Tejas Patel | tejas@oxfamindia.org | +91 9999105600 

Savvy Soumya Misra | savvy@oxfamindia.org | +91 98187 79535


Notes to editors: 

  • Oxfam India will begin supplying PPE to 500 frontline health workers in five states in the coming days. It is also procuring oxygen tanks and masks, beds, digital thermometers and other medical equipment to help supply government hospitals, as well as 900 emergency food rations to support the most marginalised groups. Oxfam India and its partners are monitoring the situation in 16 states across India. 
  • Since the first outbreak of Covid-19 last year, Oxfam India has been working to provide food, PPE, safety kits, cash assistance and livelihoods training across 15 states (Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana). Oxfam India is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised groups including Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and women and girls. 
  • The sudden disruption caused by lockdowns has had a severe impact on daily wage labourers, migrants and informal workers who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The sudden spike in cases Covid-19 in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi has resulted in many migrant workers becoming stranded in railway stations, bus terminals or at their places of work. Oxfam’s field teams report that these groups, who are often excluded from government support, need food and handwashing facilities to reduce their chances of becoming infected.  
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