All hands on deck!
May saw a depressing new record set in India, with more than 28 million cases of a new variant of Sars CoV 2 reported. Bringing the foreign relief available to India and its health system is quite a logistics challenge. The ITJ spoke to Mukesh Aghi, president of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, which organises procurement and transport.
India, hit by a second wave of infections in the ongoing global outbreak of Covid-19, is currently facing its worst health crisis, despite massive amounts of medical aid being shipped to the Covid-19-hit country. Foreign governments, NGOs and private organisations are amongst the many players supplying much-needed oxygen concentrators, amongst other medical equipment, as hospitals run out of oxygen for patients.
The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), a Washington-based organisation that promotes political and economic cooperation between India and the USA, has also been heavily involved in efforts to help India’s overburdened health sector. Now USISPF president and CEO Mukesh Aghi has announced in an interview with the ITJ that India will soon receive a dozen ISO containers dispatched by his organisation to help with the distribution of oxygen in the country. These containers will be shipped from different parts of Asia. “India is in dire need of oxygen cylinders. We’re transporting the cylinders to areas with the greatest shortages, which include the capital Delhi, as fast as we can.”
The USISPF has received generous support from its member firms to place orders to procure about 100,000 portable O2 concentrators for use in hospitals and homes. “By the end of May we’d already shipped about 25,000 concentrators to India. We’re in touch with manufacturers in the USA, Mexico, Malaysia and China,” Aghi said, who added that procuring the equipment has been a huge task, due to supply-side constraints.
The USISPF has called on US companies as well as the country’s national government to supply or donate beds for intensive-care units, Covid-19 test kits, N95 masks and other medical equipment. “We collaborate closely with the Indian government to ensure the smooth transport of critical equipment and supplies,” Aghi said.
He explained that the USISPF follows a three-stage strategy to deliver the much-needed supplies to India. The first stage envisages meeting India’s immediate needs and helping the country to further build up its health infrastructure.
“With the support of FedEx we shipped 25,000 oxygen concentrators, including equipment from Dubai, Thailand and Hong Kong, to India” Aghi said, adding that the USISPF facilitated an airlift by United Airlines of nasal swabs for Covid-19 tests made by Johnson & Johnson. “Another shipment of hospital supplies will also be leaving California for India soon,” he reported.
The second stage sees the USISPF shipping prefabricated hospitals equipped with generators to India. We’ve collaborated with the Indian health ministry,” Aghi said, “to send all our stocks to the Indian Red Cross.”
Thirdly, intensifying the rate of vaccination will help contain the spread of the disease. There was a two-week disruption of operations when supplies ordered from Chinese manufacturers couldn’t be flown out, because Sichuan, a Chinese airline, had to temporarily suspend its cargo flights to India.
“We also contacted manufacturers in Turkey, Mexico, Israel and various European countries; we even paid them in advance. It’s a question of supply and demand. Fortunately, we’re not facing any hurdles at airports in India,” says Aghi. The Indian Air Force has also transported a number of consignments, thanks to the involvement of the USISPF.