India is battling a catastrophic, record-breaking coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and set crematoriums working at full capacity.
On Monday, for the fifth straight day, the country set a global daily record of new coronavirus infections, as new variants of the virus continue to spread.
Families are being left on their own to ferry people sick with COVID-19 from hospital to hospital in search of treatment.
India has ordered its armed forces to help tackle surging infections as countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has an official tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, health ministry data showed, although health experts say the figures probably run higher.
The World Health Organization (WHO) chief voiced alarm Monday, saying the organization was rushing to help address the crisis.
“The situation in India is beyond heartbreaking,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies.”
Tedros said the UN health agency was among other things sending “thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies”.
The WHO also said it had transferred more than 2,600 of its experts from various programs, including polio and tuberculosis, to work with Indian health authorities to help respond to the pandemic.
The first of nine airline container-loads of supplies from the UK, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, was set to arrive in India early Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, pledging the UK would do “all it can” to help.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK would use military planes or charter other aircraft to get the supplies to India to help the country “in their time of need”.
The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from surplus UK stocks.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the US would send raw materials for Covishield, Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, as well as medical equipment and protective gear.
“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” a White House statement said.
However, it did not mention whether it would send any of the 30 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses it currently holds in surplus.
The Biden administration’s top medical adviser on Sunday said the US would review how to help India’s vaccine supply.
Dr Anthony Fauci told ABC that the US would consider ways to help, such as by sending vaccine doses to India or helping the country “to essentially make vaccines themselves”. Here