Responding to India’s Devastating COVID Surge: Part II

Nav Srishti Distributing food rations in Delhi. Photo provided by Rise Up Leader Reena Banerjee.

Nav Srishti distributing food rations in Delhi. Photo provided by Rise Up Leader Reena Banerjee.

India’s devastating second wave of coronavirus cases has killed thousands of people each day and overwhelmed the country’s healthcare infrastructure. While there have been some recent signs of hope — cases of the virus appear to be decreasing nationally and vaccine supply is increasing — concerns remain that India is undercounting COVID-19 cases, particularly in rural areas where it is harder to access tests, and that the impacts of this surge will be long lasting.  Additionally, in the midst of this crisis, the Indian government has made it harder for NGOs across the country to accept foreign donations.  

As we shared last month, Rise Up Leaders in India have been stepping up to protect their communities, despite these challenges. This month, we asked Rise Up Leaders to share more about how they are responding to this crisis and how people can support their work.

See below for ways you can support Rise Up Leaders who are distributing rations and emergency supplies, helping people access medical care and register for the vaccine, combating misinformation, and addressing the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and lockdown on girls and women. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

*Indicates organizations that can accept international contributions


Deepa Bajaj, Chief Executive, Child Survival India*
Rise Up Leader since 2020

How we are responding: “We are witnessing a devastating human tragedy in India. We have started a helpline (Prayaas) for friends and families of COVID infected to support them to access resources like oxygen, medication, plasma donations, ambulances, and ICU beds. We are also mobilizing resources to distribute food and COVID home care kits in underprivileged rural and slum [informal settlement] communities to enable early diagnosis and effective home care. Additionally, we are supporting district health authorities to augment their health infrastructure and medical supplies.”

How you can help: “You can donate to support our work. Right now the need is too much and demand is far outstripping our supplies.”

Reena Banerjee, Founder and Executive Director, Nav Srishti*
Rise Up Leader since 2020

How we are responding: “We are working on providing preventive and long-term support for around 1,500 marginalized families. Most of the beneficiaries are migrant laborers who have faced livelihood challenges in addition to health-related challenges over the last year. They are in a very difficult situation. We are providing sanitizer, masks, sanitary pads (for women and girls), soaps, ration kits, medicines (if required), and other essential items.”

How you can help: “We have been mobilizing resources from our supporters. However the challenge is quite big and as the support we receive is inadequate, we find ourselves in a situation where it becomes difficult to provide all that is needed. Any kind of support will help us to serve these people. You can learn how to support us here

Venu Arora, Co-founder and Director, Ideosync Media Combine
Rise Up Leader since 2020

How we are responding: “Our organization is doing a weekly fact check podcast and providing information to our community members in urban slums via our Whatsapp radio channel. Additionally, we have held three online training programs for over 100 community members to deepen their understanding about the virus, reduce vaccine hesitancy, and learn how to register online for the vaccine. One of our programs is also offering masks, thermometers, and oximeters to community members.”

How you can help: “The greatest support you can provide to India would be to advocate that the Indian State take up free and universal vaccination against COVID and invest in improving the health infrastructure in the country.”

Riya Thakur, Manager of Youth and Adolescence Programs, Population Foundation of India
Rise Up Leader since 2020

How we are responding: “In response to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Population Foundation of India has launched a campaign to inform people about COVID appropriate behaviors, reduce vaccine hesitancy and build confidence, and raise awareness of the risks of isolation and stigma related to COVID.” 

How you can help: “We are disseminating the campaign across online and offline platforms in partnership with our state offices and on-ground partners. We are also interacting with the media through interviews, panels, blogs, and editorials to ensure evidence-based strategic engagement on the public health response to the pandemic. Please help us spread the word by sharing some of our materials on Facebook and Twitter. ” 

Suman Verma, State Coordinator, Delhi, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)*
Rise Up Leader since 2020

How we are responding: “We are distributing health kits, food rations, and information through the 1,160 frontline warriors we call Agewans across ten states of India. We are also working with government officials and private players to ensure access to oxygen, oxygen concentrators, teleconsultation, and hospital beds for COVID patients. Additionally, we are providing personal protective equipment for Agewans, and facilitating transportation and emergency passes for them, so these frontline workers are able to distribute supplies even when curfews and other restrictions are in place.”

How you can help: “If you live in India, you can support our work across ten states by contributing here. For more information on our work and how to donate from overseas, please see our recent appeal (international donation information is on page 5). You can also follow our social media handles and share our appeal with your network and friends to amplify our efforts. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.”


Tania Fernandes Echaporia, Director of Operations and Partnerships, Red Dot Foundation*
Rise Up Leader since 2019

How we are responding: “We are raising funds for oxygen concentrators in Dhanabad. We are also partnering with Krantii, an organization of ex-army personnel, to offer medical and social aid, helping to pay for food, the costs of ambulances, medical bills, cremation services, and more.” 

How you can help: “You can donate to our fundraiser for oxygen concentrators in Dhanbad here. You can support our partnership with Krantii to provide medical and social aid and distribute food here.”

Deepa Pawar, Founder and Director, Anubhuti
Rise Up Leader since 2018

How we are responding: “Anubhuti is carrying out COVID response with a focus on NT-DNT (nomadic and denotified tribes). Our relief efforts within these communities include ration distribution and medical support for COVID-positive patients as well as those with other critical issues. We are especially focused on reaching the most vulnerable within the NT-DNT community, including pregnant and single women, those who are disabled, survivors of violence, and others. We are also carrying out community counselling on mental health, vaccination, precautions for at-risk individuals, as well as dealing with the deep socio-economic impacts of child marriages, domestic violence, financial crisis, and other issues related to or exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdown.”

How you can help: “Indian citizens can contribute to our relief efforts here.”

Dilip Alla Rathod, Secretary, Social Institute Programme for Rural Area*
Rise Up Leader since 2019

How we are responding: “In the Nanded District of Maharashtra the most marginalized are again bearing the brunt of the pandemic. We are providing dry ration kits, medicine and medical supplies, and free meals to patients and relatives. We are also helping people access hospital beds, oxygen, and transportation to hospitals. Additionally, we are raising awareness about COVID symptoms and precautions.”

How you can help: “You can donate here to support our work.”

Naseem Shaikh, Associate Director of Programs, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP)*
Rise Up Leader since 2018

How we are responding: “We are supporting vulnerable rural women and families with food relief in across 50 villages Marathwada, Maharashtra, and Delhi during lockdown.”

How you can help: “You can donate here.”