MILWAUKEE - As India's COVID-19 crisis worsens, local health leaders and community members are urging people in Wisconsin to help those halfway around the world. That is because 200,000 are now confirmed dead in India -- and the number of reported cases is nearly 20 million.
Last month, the parents of Brookfield's Shriram Kelkar were hospitalized in India with COVID-19. They are among the lucky ones -- treated and released prior to when cases began spiraling out of control.
The country's health care system, now overwhelmed, is unable to care for many of the patients needing critical care.
"My brother’s mother-in-law, unfortunately, she passed away two weeks back. I have my friends from Brookfield who moved back. They also had to suffer. One of them passed away," Kelkar said.
Kelkar is also the Milwaukee-area coordinator for SEWA International -- a Hindu faith-based humanitarian nonprofit that specializes in disaster relief. The organization has already raised $8 million to purchase and ship 2, 500 oxygen concentrators and 250 ventilators.
"We are deploying these concentrators to the low-cost hospitals and the budget hospitals, to COVID case centers and nonprofit clinics and centers and some government facilities, which otherwise don’t get a lot of support," said Achalesh Amar, National Director of SEWA International USA.
Still, with 385,000 new cases recorded in India on Friday alone, many more donations are needed. Just one ventilator costs $25,000.
"What we have learned over and over in the last year and several months, none of us, none of us live in isolation," said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Dr. Weston said the crisis in India is also likely to lead to another more contagious and potentially deadly variant that could quickly spread to the U.S. He said one of the best and easiest ways to help the rest of the world is to protect ourselves.
Dr. Ben Weston
"Take advantage of the vaccine supply that we are so lucky to have in our community," Weston said.