‘We are alarmed’: Catholic aid groups respond to India’s COVID crisis

India COVID June 25, 2020: Health workers arrive at a check-up camp in Malad | Manoej Paateel/Shutterstock

Catholic aid groups are mobilizing relief efforts in India, as the country is gripped by a worsening outbreak of the coronavirus.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas India are on the ground in the subcontinent, and are administering aid. 

“In India and elsewhere, CRS and our Church partners are providing life-saving support to communities impacted by COVID-19,” Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for CRS, told CNA on Wednesday. 

Gamer said that CRS has reached more than 10 million people through on-the-ground efforts to prevent spread of the virus, support health responders, and “assist extremely vulnerable families to manage the compounded impacts of the pandemic on their lives.”

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency that provides humanitarian and pastoral support for the Middle East, northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe, announced a new emergency campaign for India on Tuesday. The campaign will “help the local churches respond to the escalating COVID-19 crisis,” the agency said. 

“We cannot watch this catastrophe unfold and not share the heartbreak and feel the need to help,” the agency’s president Msgr. Peter Vaccari stated in a press release on Tuesday. 

The death toll from the pandemic in India is estimated to have exceeded 225,000. The country is averaging about 3,500 deaths per day from COVID-19, and hospitals are running low on bed and vital supplies. Experts believe the number of deaths to be undercounted, the AP has reported.

“We are alarmed by the spike in COVID-19 cases in India, Nepal and other hotspots. As our Asia regional director said last week, ‘Even as an increasingly vaccinated America looks forward to a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, a number of countries in Asia are hitting their darkest periods,’” Gamer said. 

Gamer told CNA that “it’s clear that the global response to the pandemic is not moving fast enough,” and that CRS is calling on the United States and other countries “to commit to bold and immediate action to prevent the threats posed by COVID-19 worldwide.” 

Msgr. Vaccari promised that his agency will be responding to where they are needed in India.

“When the world has needed us, CNEWA was there,” he said. “And we are there now, in India, where our regional office is at work, bringing assistance however we can to those in need.”

One of CRS’ top priorities is expanding vaccine education in hard-hit areas, said Gamer. 

“CRS and our Catholic partners play a unique role as a trusted source of information—which, at a time of fear and misinformation, is truly lifesaving,” she said. 

“We are extremely grateful for the continued generosity from American Catholics and others of goodwill,” she said. “We remain committed to the notion that to end this pandemic anywhere, we must end it everywhere.”

According to CRS’ website, the organization has focused on supporting migrant workers, who are at an increased risk of getting the virus. CRS also provides psychological care and hunger assistance.

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