On Wednesday April 26th, 2021, the White House announced a plan to send over $100 million worth of COVID-19 supplies to India in light of their surge in COVID-19 cases, says Reuters. India’s death toll surpasses 200,000, a staggering statistic that has been worsened by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen. The country has suffered nearly 18 million total coronavirus infections, and April 26th brought the world’s highest daily infection rate with 360,960 new cases in India.
According to Reuters, the supplies consist of 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and one million rapid diagnostic tests. White House officials have also confirmed that an American order of AstraZeneca is set to change course to India, which will provide India with the means to make 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. United States physician and professor Ashish Jha tells Al Jazeera that sending medical aid and vaccines can “absolutely” make a difference in ending COVID-19 in India. Supplies will begin arriving Thursday, and the United States has yet to specify future shipments that will hopefully mitigate pandemic death rates in India. Al Jazeera notes that other nations, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have pledged to deliver medical aid to India.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls India’s situation “beyond heartbreaking.” As the United States slowly gets the American coronavirus pandemic under control, President Joe Biden believes “we’ll be in a position to be able to share, share vaccines as well as know how, with other countries who are in real need. That’s the hope and expectation.”
While much of the rest of the world steadily recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, India remains in a dire position. Developed countries like the United States must step forward to donate resources and finances to lower income countries where COVID-19 still runs rampant. Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will take decades, but economic crises and rising income inequality must be addressed by world powers.
In highly populated countries like India, it is especially challenging to keep infection rates down, as most citizens live in close quarters. A high percentage of Indians lack access to clean drinking water, shelter, medical services and other basic necessities of life. A 2018 article by the Washington Post calculated that five percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion lives in extreme poverty. During the same time, a prospective report by the World Poverty Clock specified that fewer than three percent of Indians will live in extreme poverty in 2021. Falling poverty rates suddenly began to rise again as 75 million people fell into poverty following the coronavirus-induced economic recession, says an analysis by Pew Research Center.
CNBC specifies that Indians who became impoverished due to the pandemic account for nearly sixty percent of 2020’s global increase in poverty. Many Indians who were gaining economic status as members of the middle class have also suffered. India’s middle class grew from 29 million to 87 million between 2011 and 2019, but is expected to drop to 66 million after 2020’s unprecedented health crisis (CNBC). Rising poverty in India “claws back several years of progress on this front,” says Pew Research Center senior analyst Rakesh Kochhar.
Lower-middle income countries like India have long struggled to foster economic success for its populations. While India showed progress in combating poverty and steep mortality rates over the past several decades, over a year of the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined any further economic progress. Shipments of supplies from the United States is a crucial step in international cooperation to end human suffering and coronavirus deaths. However, economic turmoil will persist even after the end of coronavirus infections, and India will require intervention beyond supply donations. Foreign aid to India and other struggling countries must continue for an end to the pandemic that is as swift as possible.