INDIA has become a “valley of death” as the Covid crisis worsens and supplies of oxygen and vaccines fail, church leaders report.
The Revd Moumita Biswas, of the Church of North India, said: “We are in a death-trap now; it has become a valley of death. Before this wave hit, we just knew the numbers — but now it’s our family members, our relatives, our church leaders who have died.”
Bishops have appealed for the prayers of the rest of the world. The CNI Bishop of Nagpur, the Rt Revd Andrew Rathod, said that churches had now closed owing to a lockdown in his diocese, but burial grounds were overflowing (News, 30 April, 23 April).
“We need your prayers so that this situation may change, and the lives of the people are saved,” he said. Covid infections in India have now risen above 20 million — second only to the United States — and there have been more than 225,000 deaths. The Indian government continues to insist that there is no shortage of oxygen in the country, only issues transporting it to hospitals.
Church Mission Society (CMS) partners have described the situation as “devastating”. The Christian Medical College hospital in Vellore, which is supported by CMS, has increased the number of beds that it has available, and has created more ICU beds for Covid patients, but is still having to turn people away, a CMS partner based at the hospital, Harry Searle, said.
Churches and charities are responding to the emergency with fund-raising appeals to buy oxygen. The Church of Scotland is sending a £5000 emergency grant to the Church of South India to support its efforts.
Indian churches are supplying people with food, masks, hygiene items, and oxygen supplies, and trying to help the most severely ill to receive medical treatment.
The convener of the Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum, the Very Revd Susan Brown, said: “The numbers infected and dying in India are staggering. As elsewhere, it is the poorest who are suffering most. Our hearts go out to the Churches of North and South India in particular, and we encourage people, if they can, to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.”
The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal has also released €10,000 in emergency funding to support Covid relief in India. A diocesan representative for the Bishops’ Appeal, the Revd Albert Dawson, called on people to remember the number of staff from India working in hospitals in Ireland as they donated.
“Let us remember the doctors and nurses who have travelled to our country from India and provided care for our citizens, over the last year, in the hospitals and nursing homes throughout Ireland. These are very valued members of our health-care staff, and it would be one way of showing them how much we value their contribution to our society.”
The charity Feed the Hungry has launched an “Oxygen for India” appeal to buy an oxygen generator for the Kachhwa Christian hospital in Uttar Pradesh. The operations director, Gwyn Williams, said that oxygen concentrators and ventilators had also been donated, but, as airspace was limited owing to Covid restrictions, getting them out to India was taking time.
The charity plans to get the oxygen and other equipment out through a network of hospitals in India and also Nepal, where Covid figures are soaring upwards. “Nepal is likely to be hit even worse,” he said. “These village hospitals in India and Nepal have less kit than we’d find in the average home or office in the UK.
“People are dying on the ground every day. Our donors have been very generous in the last few days; every penny is needed. This is our opportunity to help our brothers and sisters around the world. And there is still time to help, as the pandemic is very far from going away in poorer parts of the world.”
The humanitarian agency GFA World called on the world to pray for India. The founder, Dr K. P Yohannan, said: “In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything in my experience that compares with this tsunami of suffering. A catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes — and we’re now at the eleventh hour. We can be sure that God weeps for those who are suffering; for the many who are even now gasping for breath.
“The government of India, and other governments around the world, desperately need prayer for wisdom right now as they confront this unforgiving pandemic.”
USPG is also launching an appeal to respond to the Covid-19 crisis in India. The appeal is aimed at helping hospitals, including the Sarenga Mission Hospital, run by the CNI diocese of Durgapur, to buy personal protective equipment, oxygen machines, and anti-viral medicine