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India: Mosques and Muslim NGOs rally in aid of vulnerable as health sector struggles with soaring Covid cases

14th May 2021
India: Mosques and Muslim NGOs rally in aid of vulnerable as health sector struggles with soaring Covid cases

April 28: A mosque being converted into an isolation ward for Covid-19 patients in Green Park area of New Delhi, India (Credit: Imtiyaz Khan/Anadolu Agency)

Nadine Osman

Mosques and Muslim NGOs in several parts of India have sprung to action in aid of the most vulnerable as astronomical infection rates severely cripple the country’s health system, leading to massive shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and critical drugs.

India has been witnessing a staggering surge in infections of more than 300,000 daily since April 22, well past its peak last year, when it was averaging around 93,000 cases a day.

Mosques in Mumbai and the surrounding suburbs have begun to provide free oxygen cylinders to Covid-19 patients and, in turn, take some pressure off the hospitals.

The provision, initiated by the Red Crescent Society of India, comes with kits that can be fitted at home for Covid-19 patients whose oxygen saturation level is low. The first train with seven tankers left from Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra.

“Since not all Covid-19 patients are getting beds in hospitals and many are being treated at home, we thought of making oxygen available to those who need it. It is being provided for free to people, irrespective of religion, caste or creed. This is our united fight against the pandemic, and we thought of doing our bit to help the needy,” said Arshad Siddiqui, Chairman, Red Crescent Society of India.

Siddiqui said the demand is increasing, and his NGO may not be able to meet it. When asked why he chose to involve the mosques in this work, he said they should not be used only to pray five times a day. “It is God’s house, a sacred place, and we feel a good initiative should start from a sacred place. We are getting requests from all communities,” said Siddiqui.

According to Dr Azimuddin, as of mid-April, 1,000 cylinders have been distributed. “Many people are dying because they are not getting oxygen in time. I have seen patients being sent back from different hospitals due to the shortage of oxygen. If there is an adequate supply of oxygen, many lives can be saved,” he said.

In the capital Delhi, members of the Shahi Bagh Wali mosque have given out 8-litre oxygen cylinders to patients in urgent need. In Vadodara, the third-largest city in Gujarat state, the Jahangirpura mosque has been converted to a 50-bed makeshift hospital to help ease the pressure, after a shortage of beds and oxygen was reported.

On April 14, Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced that oxygen has become an emergency in Delhi with several major cities have made similar complaints. “In view of sharply increasing cases, Delhi needs much more than normal supply,” he said.This has prompted officials to start using the country’s vast rail network to start ferrying oxygen around the country in special trains.

Muslim NGOs have also started helpline numbers to provide leads about beds and oxygen supplies. There have been desperate calls on social media about shortages of beds and oxygen across the country. “We started a relief task force a week ago. A control room in New Delhi with 30 people working is operational around the clock to help the patients,” Musab Qazi, a spokesman of the Students Islamic Organization of India, the students’ wing of socio-religious organization Jamaat-e-Islami, told Anadolu Agency.

“Through our task force, we are helping people find beds, oxygen supply, and drugs like Remdesvir.” As of May 5, the country’s overall caseload has crossed 20.7 million, while the death toll reached 226,000.

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