India’s second wave of COVID-19 has created global concern and local panic as patients arrive at rural hospitals breathless and in urgent need of assistance which health workers can’t provide.

The country has faced a huge spike in cases since April with daily cases approaching 400,000. The shortage of oxygen and other emergency equipment has meant many Christian hospitals have had to turn patients away. Sick and dying patients are travelling from hospital to hospital in search of care.

There is grave concern that the actual case numbers are as much as five to 10 times what is being reported.

In response, Baptist World Aid Australia has launched an emergency appeal to support frontline health workers in rural India, specifically assisting four Christian hospitals in Assam and Uttar Pradesh.  

‘God’s heart must be breaking for this recent outbreak of suffering in India,’ said John Hickey, CEO of Baptist World Aid. ‘Baptists have a long history of caring for our neighbours there. We have the privilege of continuing that tradition of generosity and care in giving to the India Covid Emergency Appeal.’

One Baptist hospital in Tezpur, Assam, is one of the hospitals that will receive immediate assistance. Established in 1954 as a charitable hospital providing ‘quality care at affordable costs for the poor and marginalised’, the hospital will utilise the emergency funds raised through Baptist World Aid to prepare a 20-bed COVID isolation ward, oxygen equipment, PPE for staff, food for patients and other supplies.

Assam has had more than 3,000 new cases every day since 26 April. Experts have predicted the peak incidence of cases to occur in mid-May. At present, with every fifty tests done at the hospital, between 8–10 patients test positive and need immediate medical attention.

Baptist World Aid’s support will include the creation of a three-bed high-dependency unit (HDU) at one hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

The COVID-19 situation is dire across Uttar Pradesh which has reported a seven-day average of more than 33,000 cases to 1 May.

Other initiatives include a public awareness campaign in Bihar and the National Capital Region to encourage healthy behaviours such as wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, using hand sanitiser, maintaining social distancing, and receiving the vaccine.

While this initial funding will directly support Christian hospitals in Assam and Uttar Pradesh, and support outreach programs in Bihar and the National Capital Region, Baptist World Aid is deeply concerned that the Indian COVID-19 emergency will continue for some months to come. It also has the potential to become a regional emergency after the dramatic increase in cases in neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh.

Donors are asked to give generously via Baptist World Aid’s India Covid Emergency Appeal to enable continued support to the region over the coming months.