21. How to help India during COVID-19

Advice for donating during the devastating second wave

Welcome back to Giving to Strangers. Every issue I explore what matters in social good and offer sane, relevant donation advice. Giving to Strangers is written by me, Anya Marchenko.

People in India are suffering a devastating second wave of COVID-19. There are 22 million confirmed cases, with as many as 412,000 new infections every day. The real numbers are feared to be as much as 10x higher. And India’s healthcare system is overwhelmed — shortages mean that people are getting sent away from hospitals that don’t have oxygen, beds, or supplies for them; others are waiting in line for days outside the hospital.

To understand how to best help during this crisis, I combed through ~70 local, grassroots initiatives and charities run by Indians and recommended by friends and coworkers. They ranged from established NGOs who pivoted to COVID-19 relief to Facebook groups started just two weeks ago. These efforts are focused on delivering emergency aid to people who are suffering now.

The initiatives I recommend below were screened for 1) appearing to have a track record of prior aid delivery, 2) claiming to meet a clear need (food, supplies), and 3) allowing international credit card donations.

#1 - Oxygen for India

Provides much-needed oxygen, tackling ‘last mile’ delivery across 7 Indian cities

People are dying in India simply because of a lack of oxygen. We don’t know the scale of these preventable deaths — people who die without oxygen but who would have survived otherwise — but the stories are heartbreaking.

This shortage is what prompted Ramanan Laxminarayan — an economist and epidemiologist who founded and directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) — to put out a call to his network for help that launched Oxygen for India.

Ramanan’s post on LinkedIn, shared by a friend and coworker of mine, details how Oxygen for India grew in the span of literal days from an idea to delivering oxygen tanks:

In addition to delivering literal oxygen tanks, Oxygen for India is solving a last mile connectivity problem, says Ramanan. While India has oxygen meant for industrial use or in plants, it’s not being delivered to those who need it most. Some oxygen is also being hoarded, where people get a canister just in case something happens, contributing to the shortage. Oxygen for India is addressing this by bringing together firms and logistics companies who can help deliver tanks.

Oxygen For India is a case in which there is a clear need for a specific resource that saves lives, and a charity that has demonstrated it can meet that need in a way that’s reasonably transparent, rapid, and reliable.

Donate to Oxygen for India

#2 - Rana Ayyub’s initiative

The journalist is sending food and paying for hospital bills for workers in crematoriums, hospitals, and morgues in Mumbai

Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist and humanitarian currently working for the Washington Post. I am recommending this initiative because during India’s first wave, Ayyub organized an effort to successfully deliver food to 70,000 poor families and send 10,000 migrant workers home in buses. Now, during the crushing second wave, she has re-launched her initiative in Mumbai and the surrounding slums.

They will be providing enough food for a month, medical assistance, and payment of hospital bills, prioritizing “helping those working in crematoriums, graveyards, cleaning staff in hospitals and morgues.” Another team will be deployed to New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

The listing on India’s GoFundMe page shows they are ~$60,000 short of their $180,000 goal.

Help Rana get food to wage workers

#3 - Mercy Mission

This network of organizations working in Bangalore is ferrying COVID-19 patients in ambulances and providing oxygen

Mercy Mission is a network of 20+ organizations working across Bangalore, the biggest city in the state of Karnataka. They have established a helpline on March 29 and have received over 2,000 calls asking for assistance; send out ambulance teams to help move COVID patients to hospitals, and are providing free oxygen cylinders to patients.

According to their fundraising page, donations will be used to expand their oxygen distribution and ambulance network.

I am recommending their initiative because of their great track record during COVID. They were able to distribute >70,000 ration kits, service meals in over 100 trains to feed migrants workers who had to return home after lockdown, and run over 30 kitchens.

Donate for ambulances + oxygen

#4 - Adivasi Lives Matter

Unlike many charities working in cities, the organization is focused on reaching out to India’s tribal groups (“Adivasi”) in rural areas

Adivasi Lives Matter is focusing its effort on providing emergency relief for 10 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups in Chhattisgarh, Tripura, and Tamil Nadu. They are tackling vaccine misinformation that spreads through Whatsapp by providing information about the benefits of vaccination, as well as providing ration kits for families of people with disabilities and the elderly and masks.

Donate to support India's tribal groups

#5 - GiveIndia.org

A general COVID-19 fundraiser supporting a mix of charities working in India

GiveIndia.org is a crowdfunding clearinghouse where many charities are asking for donations. If you’re not sure about donating to a specific charity, GiveIndia.org has rounded up general COVID-19 donation opportunities that will go to a mix of charities filling gaps in healthcare and other critical needs.

They are charging 0% platform fees for their COVID-19 donations.

Donate to a general COVID-19 relief