The Reality of COVID-19 in Rural India

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We are watching horrifying scenes in India’s big cities, where COVID-19 patients have been unable to get ambulances, and even the best-equipped hospitals have run out of oxygen. So what is Covid-19 doing to small, rural towns? 

Most people in small villages have never used the internet and don’t have access, regardless. So how would they book vaccine appointments on the website the government has provided? They can’t and they haven’t.

And if they are able to figure out how, appointments are booked within seconds of becoming available. 

Many people who live in these small villages are migrant workers who were forced to return home last March when the pandemic erupted. Thousands of workers from all over still crowd buses and train stops as they are now migrating home due to the second wave of Covid-19. 

One Good Samaritan Indian man named Kumar is from Bihar, which is made up of many migrant worker families.

Kumar stated in a phone interview with NPR, “Every third household here now has at least one person with COVID-like symptoms, but they are not able to get tested,” Kumar says over a crackly phone line from his grandparents’ house. “At first it was mostly in the towns, because they have markets. But now it’s getting worse, spreading to the small villages too.”

Due to migrant workers being forced out of work and having to return home, the virus may now be moving out of big cities and into rural India — where testing is less widespread and medical care is even more difficult to find. 

The district of West Champaran is home to about 4 million people. It has just three hospitals — with a total of 210 beds allocated for coronavirus patients — and they’re almost all full. There are fewer than 10 beds available on any day.

“And if your situation is worse, and you need intensive care or a ventilator or plasma, it’s not available at all,” Kumar laments. One of the local hospitals does have two or three ventilators, but there are no technicians who know how to use them, he says.

In rural areas, where two-thirds of Indians live and rely almost solely on government hospitals, access is even more dire: the ratio is 1 allopathic doctor to more than 10,000 people — ten times less than what the WHO recommends. 

Besides the reality of death, there are so many false rumors that also stop people from seeking help. In rural India, people go by lived experience. So the challenge they feel is, how do they know this is COVID? When should they go to the hospital? People are scared. There are rumors like, ‘You’re more likely to die if you get hospitalized.’ So people are really, really hesitant.

Many experts suggest that the ACTUAL death count is 5-10 times higher than the figures India is predicting because there is no way to keep track of the actual impact Covid-19 is having on rural Indian populations. Please keep those effected by Covid-19 in your thoughts and prayers!

Source: NPR Article

About Carry the Water NC

We’re a public charity and federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Morrisville, North Carolina. We work to make a global impact by transforming thirsty villages in India with sustainable clean water solutions. We work to unite American, Indian, and other communities for the common cause of clean water.

In 2020, due to the global pandemic, Carry the Water NC temporarily shifted focus from water projects (construction across India has been on hold due to lockdowns) to Covid-19 relief. Thanks to generous donors, vetted, trustworthy community partners across India are able to care for those most in need. Funds go toward grocery kits, vaccines, and medical expenses. Give today at carrythewaternc.org/give

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