Millions facing double disaster as second Covid wave overwhelms rural India

Millions facing double disaster as second Covid wave overwhelms rural India

3 June 2021

The second wave of Covid-19 has left public healthcare in shambles, warned Oxfam India today, people have lost their lives due to lack of proper medical facilities and infrastructure. While the situation is getting a little under control in cities, it is still very grim in rural India.

Around 65 percent of the total population, which is approximately 1.3 billion, live in rural India where there are issues related to access to medical facilities, hospitals, doctors, technically trained staff and testing facilities. 

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said: “There was a time when we woke up every day to news of death of a friend, family, acquaintance. Villages were even worse off. With no access to health care and no testing, in some cases 20-25 people from a village died within days of each other. No one in India has remained untouched by this pandemic. And most of these lives could have been saved if there was proper, adequate, and affordable healthcare for all.

“People outside the major cities do not have the same access to social media to reach out for help or raise awareness of what is happening. While a lack of testing, healthcare facilities and post-mortems, means large numbers of cases in rural communities are not being recorded.”

Oxfam India plans to strengthen the rural health ecosystem in some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities by providing the necessary tools, training and equipment needed by frontline health workers for early identification of cases and timely referral to health centres. 

While healthcare is the primary focus, Oxfam India is also reaching out to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food. In the long-run Oxfam will work towards providing livelihood support to informal sector workers and their families. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Apart from a healthcare calamity, India was already reeling under economic stress. The sporadic lockdowns and containment zones mean that once again that informal sector workers - from street vendors to domestic workers - are the worst hit. Latest report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that over 10 million Indians lost their jobs in the second Covid wave and around 97 percent of household incomes have fallen since the start of the pandemic last year. 

“Millions who slipped into poverty last year due to job losses are now facing another looming crisis, hunger. India already has the largest population facing food shortages in the world, with an estimated 189 million people in India already undernourished before the pandemic began.

“We have received an incredible response to our India appeal so far. From individual donations to corporate fundraisers – the support from the people and businesses across the island of Ireland has been so heartening and is having a direct and positive impact on the ground. It is fantastic to see such global solidarity in times of crisis. To help overcome the double disaster that Amitabh and his team are seeing right now in rural India, please support Oxfam’s India Crisis Appeal at, to provide much needed food and health care supplies to the people who need it most."


For more information, please contact:

Caroline Reid | Oxfam Ireland |

Savvy Soumya Misra | Oxfam India |    

Notes to the Editors:  

  • In the second wave, Oxfam India is working with the government and local administrations to deploy 7 Oxygen generation plants, 25 ventilators, 500 Oxygen concentrators, 3000 Oxygen cylinders (40-lts capacity), 11800 Oxygen nasal masks, 300 BiPAP machines, 1200 ICU beds, around 16000 diagnostic equipment of different types, and 19000 PPE kits. We are also aiming to provide one-month dry ration supply and community safety kits to 225,000 people.
  • Oxfam are reaching out to public healthcare institutions, district administrations and COVID Care Centres with medical equipment will also reach the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food, ration, and safety kits. 
  • Oxfam India also plans to train 35000 ASHA workers and provide them with medical kits for a larger community outreach to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour and also to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy.
  • Since March 2020, Oxfam India has been working in 16 states, reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable with medical supplies, food kits, cooked meals, safety and PPE kits, cash, and livelihood trainings.  
  • In the first month of Oxfam’s response to the second wave, they have provided support in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. While continuing to work in these states among the most marginalised and vulnerable communities, Oxfam India will also look at expanding to Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.  

About Oxfam India 

Oxfam India is a movement of people working to create a just and an equal India. We work to ensure that Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and women and girls have safe-violence free lives with freedom to speak their mind, equal opportunities to realize their rights, and a discrimination free future. 

During the last five years, Oxfam India has responded to more than 35 humanitarian disasters across the country and directly provided relief to nearly 1.5 million people. Oxfam India’s humanitarian response is guided by the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in disaster affected areas.

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