India is facing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, with deaths nearly tripling in the past three weeks and the country setting daily global records of new virus cases.
The crisis in India has pushed the country’s health system close to collapse, with hospitals scrambling for more oxygen, beds, ventilators and ambulances.
The number of deaths has topped 200,000 and cases surpassed 18 million, but experts believe those figures are misleading and say coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severely undercounted.
As the country wrangles with an alarming increase in cases, here's what you need to know about India's COVID-19 crisis, as well as ways to help.
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What Is Going On in India With COVID-19?
India reported around 379,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and more than 3,600 new deaths. However, experts say the numbers are misleading and are only a fraction of the actual number of cases in the country of 1.4 billion.
New Delhi, India's capital city, is reporting one death from COVID-19 every four minutes. Health officials are attempting to reduce the number of deaths, but say there is a critical shortage of oxygen at hospitals.
The few medicines known to help treat COVID-19 -- such as remdesivir and steroids in hospitalized patients -- are scarce. Hospital beds are also in short supply, with only 14 free intensive care beds available in New Delhi (a city of 29 million people) Thursday morning.
Additionally, voting for the eighth and final phase of the West Bengal state elections began Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced criticism over the last few weeks for holding huge rallies in the state, which experts suggest might have driven the surge there too.
Why Is India’s Death Count Inaccurate?
Most Indians die at home, not in a hospital, and doctors usually aren’t present to record the cause of death. This is more prevalent in rural areas, where the virus is now spreading.
“We are undercounting deaths by an unknown factor,” said Dr. T. Jacob John, a retired virologist.
Generally speaking, determining exact numbers during the pandemic is difficult. Countries count cases and deaths differently, and testing for the virus is uneven, making direct comparisons misleading.
In India, recording mortality data was poor even before the pandemic struck. Of the 10 million estimated deaths each year, fewer than a quarter are fully documented, and only one-fifth of these are medically certified, according to national figures.
How Can I Donate to India?
There are several organizations that are helping India right now and accepting donations.
UNICEF is sending urgently-needed supplies and equipment to critical care centers in India, according to the official website. Specifically, the organization is delivering critical oxygen concentrators and diagnostic testing systems, hygiene supplies and PPE kits for health care workers. Click here to donate.
The Indian Red Cross
The Indian Red Cross Society is providing medical and emotional support for those most at-risk of COVID-19 infection. Ambulances funded by the Red Cross are transporting vulnerable patients -- such as migrants, single women, mothers, and those with disabilities -- to medical facilities in hard-hit regions like New Delhi and Mumbai. Click here to donate.
The humanitarian organization is providing essential hospital services, health care workers, hospital beds, oxygen and more. Click here to donate.
American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin
Donations to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin will be used to purchase medical oxygen to send to India. Click here to donate.
Oxfam India will be distributing PPE kits to hospitals and health centers, as well as direct cash transfers to marginalized households. Click here to donate.
International Medical Corps
International Medical Corps are providing critical medical supplies and PPE to India. Click here to donate.