Activists and charities have called for donations and “moral support”, as India battles with shortages of beds and oxygen and a spiralling coronavirus death toll.
Charities including the British Red Cross, ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children are providing aid and medical equipment, while several Britons with family members in India have travelled there to assist them.
Sneha Krishnan, whose mother has been on the front lines in India, said that she is afraid many Indian people “will fall through the cracks” of aid provided.
Ms Krishnan’s mother, who did not want to give her name, is a 62-year-old retired GP in southern India, who has been helping family and friends find beds and oxygen as medical equipment grows scarce.
“Just today, my mum helped a cousin to find a bed and oxygen in Chennai, after his condition started to become quite poor,” Ms Krishnan, an associate professor at the University of Oxford, told the PA news agency.
“This cousin recently lost both his parents-in-law to Covid, so the whole thing felt terribly fraught. I’m happy to say he is now stable.
“I spoke with my parents earlier today, and my dad, also a GP, expressed a sense of disillusionment at the fact that there is rampant price gouging for anti-viral medication, oximeters and oxygen cylinders.
“Many among my parents’ patients are working-class, non-urban communities, and while they are helping them to the extent possible, both my mum and dad are afraid many will fall through the cracks as there is no real security net for those who are economically and socially marginalised.”
Several Britons with family in India have arranged to travel to the country to help.
Dr Puneet Chhabra, 35, who is travelling to India to see his mother, said he will be helping “on a personal front” when he visits the country.
“My mum is really sick and in the ICU fighting with Covid,” he told PA.
“I am not sure I will be involved in a professional way but I am definitely going to help people on a personal front in whatever way I can, as I am going to be in the hospital throughout.
“India needs that kind of motivation and support. It’s not just drugs, vaccines and oxygen, it’s moral support as well.”
Dr Chhabra is a senior fellow in gastroenterology at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, while his wife is a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.
He told PA: “Any generation Indian who is in the UK at present and has a family back home also needs support and motivation and relaxation in duties.
“I had a lot of support from my department in this regard and I will be ever grateful and obliged to them.”
The British Red Cross is calling on the public to donate to its appeal, which will see 46,000 members of staff and volunteers across India provide medical care.
The country will also receive urgent humanitarian assistance from 14 of the UK’s leading aid charities including ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children, who will be providing PPE, disinfection kits, medical supplies and ambulances.
Professor Geeta Nargund, vice-chair of the British Red Cross, said: “Right now, the situation in India is critical… its hospitals are full, its streets are lined with ambulance queues and its crematoriums are running out of space.
“Over 46,000 Red Cross staff and volunteers across 550 districts in India are supporting Covid-19 response efforts, including providing oxygen, ambulance services, first aid, medical care, and PPE within Indian communities.
“I know from my own family in India how dire the current crisis has become because of oxygen and hospital beds running out in their city.
“They are terrified and most of them are not vaccinated as is the case across India. India needs our help and Covid will not be defeated until it is defeated everywhere.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the situation in India as “harrowing” in a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday.
He said: “We’ve all seen the harrowing pictures of what is happening in India.
“I’ve been in constant contact with my Indian counterpart and we’ve worked across the weekend to put together our first package of support of ventilators and oxygen concentrators.”
On Thursday, a shipment of 120 oxygen concentrators arrived in Delhi from the UK’s surplus medical supplies, with a further 280 oxygen concentrators due to arrive on Friday morning.
The first batch of UK-funded ventilators and oxygen concentrators arrived in Delhi on Tuesday morning, with all equipment to be transferred to Indian hospitals.
The supplies are part of the initial package of support for India announced by the Prime Minister on Sunday.