By: Richard Beighton, Chief of Resource Mobilization and Partnerships, UNICEF India
India has become the first country to report more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Although as a percentage of total population this is much lower than many other countries, a devastating second wave of COVID-19 is surging, and the country is facing acute shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds. On average, there were more than four new cases every second and nearly three deaths every minute in the last 24 hours.
Despite being the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, the country is also suffering a shortage, which is hampering the roll-out of vaccines to younger people. Although over 160 million shots have been given, almost 32 million of these were second vaccines, meaning that only 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people have had at least one vaccine. At the current rate, it may take India years to vaccinate its entire population.
Among those most impacted by the pandemic are children. In the second wave, there is a proportional increase of COVID-19 cases in children. Moreover, vaccines have not yet been approved for children in India. Thus, they remain vulnerable and face the grim possibility of being the only ones that may remain susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
Indirectly, many children’s lives are impacted as more households get pushed into poverty, schools are closed, and strained health systems and by disruptions to life-saving health care like immunizations. Saddest of all, children are being orphaned or left alone as parents are treated in hospital.
Moreover, the harmful effects of this pandemic are not distributed equally. Children in the poorest communities and those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations are most at risk. CHILDLINE 1098, an emergency, toll-free, helpline for children saw 50 percent increase in calls amidst the first wave of COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition to preventing the spread of the virus and treating people who have fallen ill, it’s imperative that we holistically support children in India amidst the COVID-19 surge and into the future. This includes restarting routine childhood vaccines and getting children back to learning.
How is UNICEF Responding to the COVID-19 Surge?
UNICEF’s goal is to enable every child born in India to have the best start in life, to thrive, and to develop to their full potential. To achieve this, we use our technical expertise together with partners to tackle the root of several, deeply entrenched structural challenges – however much of the progress of recent decades is threatened by COVID-19.
UNICEF India has been integral to operational planning and on-the-ground implementation of vaccine campaigns and has been the key agency working with the government on cold-chain management and vaccine procurement. At the start of 2021, we co-organized vaccine campaign trial-runs with eight state governments. UNICEF is also the lead partner with government on the communication of vaccination programmes and in creating demand for COVID-19 vaccination and countering vaccine misinformation.
Meanwhile, to respond to the health crisis we have been able to deliver essential life saving supplies. This includes more than 13.75 million PPE items, 3,014 oxygen concentrators, 512 high-flow nasal cannulas, and 85 RT-PCR (COVID testing) machines, 1471 pediatric mannikins. We are supporting the procurement and installation of 25 PSA oxygen generation plants for hospitals, 300 RT-PCR machines, 100 RNA Extraction machines and 72 thermal scanners at various ports of entry countrywide.
On top of our work to respond to the COVID-19 directly, we have aimed to continue existing programs in nutrition, water and sanitation, and ongoing health campaigns to promote vaccinations for childhood diseases. Most recently, with the current crisis, we have also started working to protect children left orphaned by the soaring death rate.
Our Salesforce Journey
India is UNICEF’s biggest non-emergency program in the world. For a country like India with more than one billion people, including a 400 million-person middle class and 119 billionaires, there are vast fundraising opportunities, yet until recently the programme was financed almost exclusively with money from outside the country. That was, in large part, due to the fact that UNICEF India had the worst database of any UNICEF location in the world and hence could not maximise relationships with donors.
That outdated digital infrastructure changed a year and a half ago when we partnered with Salesforce and onboarded with Sales Cloud, followed a year later by Marketing Cloud. Now we can invest effectively in recruiting monthly giving donors and then onboarding them through our “Donor Love” programme.
In March 2021 alone we recruited almost 10,000 new donors and are able to effectively manage and target key donors through personalized donor journeys. By streamlining donor payment processes, testing unique donor experiences, digitizing fundraising, and fine tuning our communications across a range of donor demographics, we’ve transformed our fundraising strategy and built stronger, long-lasting relationships.
But our needs right now are enormous. The budget for our COVID-19 response alone is over $100 million. We have made huge leaps in donors’ recruitment and management, but we need people around the world to stand with us.
How Can You Take Action to Support India Right Now?
While we are encouraged by our fundraising growth over the past year and a half in India, continued investments are needed from around the world to respond to the increasingly dire impact of COVID-19 on our country.
UNICEF India is committed to restarting routine childhood vaccines, protecting children put at risk by losing parents, and getting children back to learning. In addition to investing in curbing the spread of the virus and providing life saving supplies, we’re determined to provide holistic support to keep children healthy and safe.
Please consider donating to UNICEF India today.
About the Author
Chief of Resource Mobilization and Partnerships, UNICEF India