The Biden administration is working to expand the oxygen supply chain in India to save lives and wage a successful battle against what has now become one of the worst outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, a USAID official has said.
India on Friday reported 3,86,452 new coronavirus infections, the highest single-day rise so far, pushing the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,87,62,976, while active cases crossed the 31-lakh mark.
The death toll increased to 2,08,330 with 3,498 daily new fatalities. “Obviously this is now one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world.
"The numbers are extremely high and continuing to grow,” Jeremy Konyndyk, Senior Advisor coordinating agency-wide COVID efforts at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) told PTI in an interview on Thursday.
His remarks came a day after the Biden administration dispatched its first flight of medical supplies and lifesaving oxygen for India on a military plane.
Based on the conversation that the USAID officials have had with their Indian counterparts, Konyndyk said that there is an extreme burden on the hospital system, there are immediate requirements for support with oxygen, with drugs for treatment, with other forms of support to maintain operations in some of the medical facilities.
There is also a need to support, reinforce and expand the medical oxygen supply chain, he said, adding that that seems to be the biggest challenge right now.
The USAID is looking to support the oxygen sector in the immediate term with some solutions that the agency is providing like concentrators, oxygen generators, as well as cylinders, and PPE kits to protect healthcare workers.
Konyndyk said the USAID is trying to take a broader view and work and support expansion of the oxygen supply chain in India so that the country can ultimately have the tools to meet these needs with a lot of the capacity. So the USAID is going to provide technical support to try and address this challenge of the oxygen supply chain, he said.
For the past four years, Konyndyk worked as a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, leading research on pandemic preparedness policy and humanitarian reform.
Konyndyk, who previously served in the Obama administration from 2013-2017 as the director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), where he led the US government’s response to international disasters, said that this is not an aid relationship but a partnership with India.
“This is not an aid relationship. This is a partnership. India supported us last year, sent supplies to the United States during some of the darkest days of the pandemic for us here. We are trying to reciprocate with that kind of support,” he said.
“We are looking to India, as part of the foundation of how the world will get vaccinated. The vaccine production capacity that exists in India is a critical global resource. It is the global good in a way that will support not just India''s vaccinations, but the world''s ability to vaccinate itself,” he said.
“We are also cognizant that we need to help our partner here because by helping India address this challenge right now we help accelerate vaccination in the world. And that''s a shared priority between the US and India,” he said.
Responding to a question, Konyndyk said the United States, in addition to these initial surges of support through these air-lifts, in the long run, wants to help support India to meet some of these needs internally within the country.
“Because we do think that if this immediate support can help with some of the acute urgent need, then by addressing some of the supply chain issues within the country and making the most efficient use of the oxygen production that exists in the country, that''s probably the best long-term solution,” he said.
The USAID is also working on sending a team of experts to India, he said.
The US is initiating some initial support activities that will try to enhance the oxygen supply chain, he said.
“Most of the commodities that we''re flying in on the flights, the Indian government has asked us to hand over those to the Indian Red Cross. We will be handing those over to the Red Cross, who will then work through their partners to distribute that cooperation with the government,” he said.
The USAID is also working with business partners, hospitals and through some of its NGO partners, he said.