EHA has a Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) that operates all over North India and has even gone to offer aid in Kerala at the southern tip of India as well as areas in Nepal and Albania. Whenever crisis strikes, be it an earthquake, flood, or even war, the disaster relief team is ready to go where needed, bringing medical care, medication, food, shelter, and basic household necessities. In times of non-crisis, they do a significant amount of training and planning so that organizations and communities are prepared for further difficulties. The unit often teams up with governmental agencies and other organizations to get things done.
DMMU is constantly assessing the COVID situation in India and carrying out their Emergency Response, Rehabilitation, and Preparedness Plan. Both EHA hospital teams and project teams have been actively engaged in creating awareness, teaching infection prevention in local communities, communicating about risk, and keeping surveillance ever since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Many EHA hospitals have been conducting mock drills, walking through how to handle a suspected patient from point of entry to treatment in an isolation ward until discharge.
As of April 11, there are 7,529 confirmed cases of COVID in India, and there have been 242 deaths. It is only just beginning. The government instituted a three-week lockdown on March 25, causing millions of daily wage earners to be out of work and therefore without food. They also shut down all transportation, stranding thousands of migrant workers who needed to travel back to their villages.
In partnership with the government and EHA hospitals, DMMU has already begun distributing food and hygiene kits in Madhipura, Chinchpada, and Chhatarpur. Each family receives three to four weeks’ worth of rice, flour, lentils, salt, and oil, as well as soap, face masks, and other household needs. Each of these kits costs just $30.
In the days ahead, there will be many factors for DMMU to address. Trauma and stigma are going to be major issues faced by the COVID-19 patients and their families, so a 24/7 call center is being set up. Livelihood training will be another upcoming challenge, and DMMU will need to plan for rehabilitation after the pandemic is over.