The international organisation works on a war footing to get relief material to crisis zones

Sewa International members distribute oxygen concentrators at a Delhi Covid care centre; Photo by Rajwant Rawat

Late evening of May 16, a few volunteers of Sewa International were busy at their office in New Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg loading 100 oxygen concentrators into a truck. The consignment was on its way to Nagpur in Maharashtra. At the Nagpur nodal centre, the volunteers were ready with a list of Covid care centres and hospitals where these concentrators needed to go. Kumar Shubham, coordinator for Sewa International’s India unit, has already distributed 2,150 such concentrators to more than 240 centres across the country. In Houston, the US headquarters of the Hindu humanitarian outfit, 5,700 more of such concentrators have been procured and they are on the way.

The outfit swung into action in mid-April after the second surge hit India. Along with concentrators, the group is distributing 250 ventilators, 256 co-ventilators, 20,500 oximeters as well as essential medicines and food kits. Since April 15, the 150,000-strong Indian diaspora who are part of this outfit have raised $17 million across the world. This includes $2.5 million from Jack Dorsey, CEO of social media giant Twitter.

Sewa International’s secretary Shyam Parande says raising funds and procuring equipment were the easiest of the decisions. The challenge was get the relief materials to the real beneficiaries. The first decision Sewa International took was to devise a strategy to fulfil immediate broader requirements like relief, provide victims with essentials like food and medicines along with the capacity building of healthcare institutions to ensure longer-term goals, including dealing with mental health issues. Harsh Parikh, research fellow at Duke University calls this the ‘T-Model’ for disaster relief.

Sewa uses its network of 80-odd NGOs in India and correlates with hotspots identified by central and state agencies to target beneficiaries. For this, the Sewa team does an analysis, based on past experience, on utilisation and extent of relief needs. “We are clear; the centre has to be charitable (including budget) hospitals, Covid care centres, isolation wards, NGOs doing relief work or government hospitals or PHCs,” says Pande.

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