Global Health Matters – Live Event Series

May 31, 2021

The COVID-19 Humanitarian Crisis in India – Situation and Response

  • Date:  Friday – May 28th, 2021
  • Time: 1-2 pm Irish Time

The images from the overrun hospitals and cremation sites in India caused by Covid-19 has sounded cautionary alarm bells for the rest of the world. With a 1.3 billion population, the country is experiencing devastating consequences on human lives as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. As the fragile healthcare system buckles under the weight of the humanitarian crisis, we look at how agencies are coping to respond in the face of fragmented services and fragile health systems on the ground.

View Event Recording

Amid expressions of solidarity from political leaders worldwide, how are international agencies responding? What role do political leaders have and how can they best mobilise for large scale relief? How is Ireland contributing?

Topics for Discussion:

In this live event, we hear from speakers leading their organisations’ response, from Indian frontline healthcare workers and from agencies responding on the ground.


  • Nadine Ferris France, Executive Director, Irish Global Health Network
  • Hala Ali, Programme Coordinator, ESTHER Ireland


Dr Pooja Ramakant, Surgeon and Additional Professor, Department of Endocrine Surgery, King Georges’ Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Summary of Points Made

  • In India the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic recorded its highest death tolls in April and May since the pandemic began, however the current number of cases has now started to decline 
  • At King George’s Medical University, 1,000 out of 4,000 beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, but the hospital is short staffed and must manage both Covid emergencies and non-COVID emergencies 
  • Transportation and lockdowns have made it difficult for non-covid emergencies to be prioritised, and 28 million elective surgeries have been cancelled or postponed 
  • Large crowds in waiting room for patients receiving non-COVID procedures puts patients at higher risk of contracting the virus  
  • Current vaccination modelling shows that it is important to prioritize the vaccination of patients who are undergoing surgery, specifically cancer patients and elderly patients 

Dr Mohammad Haqmal, Senior International Public Health Expert and Chevening Scholar

Summary of Points Made

  • Festivals and religious gatherings, state elections, and densely populated areas contributed to the second wave and rise of COVID-19 variants  
  • At the governmental level there was little preparation to fight the second wave, and on the ground a lack of infrastructure has made it difficult for doctors to support the numbers of cases that needed critical care  
  • It is vitally important to continue to control the current situation through mass immunizations, mask adherence, and social distancing through governmental regulations and public health initiatives 
  • There is opportunity now to collaborate between public and private sectors, strengthen community engagement to allocate additional resources, and improve health systems in rural India 

David Weakliam, Global Health Programme Director, Health Service Executive

Summary of Points Made

  • Strong public response to the crisis in India catalysed the donation of 700 oxygen concentrators, 400 ventilators, and 2 oxygen generators in collaboration with the EU civil protection mechanism and Irish authorities 
  • Long standing relationships between the HSE, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Health helped quickly mobilize and allocate resources to India in just three days 
  • Collaboration between local authorities prioritized autonomy for Indian authorities to select the medical supplies desired prior to shipment 
  • Widespread collaboration between different public health officials has shown the importance of sharing information and solidarity during this crisis

Charlotte Kavanagh, Chief Fundraising and Communications Executive, The HOPE Foundation 

Summary of Points Made

  • As a result of lockdowns and recent surges, children’s and families in Kolkata are suffering from lack of nutrition, education, and healthcare 
  • The HOPE foundation’s recent online campaign helped buy equipment, convert their current COVID ward, and buy another facility to treat those not in critical care 
  • Social media has been a powerful contributor for support to their efforts, and will continue to help raise awareness to future efforts  
  • Very few families will have been unaffected by this tragedy once it is over, and donations help in real time

Dr Archana Seahwag MD,DTMPH, MScIH – World Health Organization

Summary of Points Made

  • While reported cases in India have declined, deaths have increased and these numbers may be underreported 
  • Over 2,600 WHO experts have been redeployed throughout the country at all levels to support the implementation of tailored response to the pandemic 
  • WHO will continue to partner with UNICEF, WFP and Indian authorities to prioritise vaccination acceleration efforts 
  • Partnerships with the government and civil society organisations are vastly important to continue to promote public health initiatives and awareness related to the virus. 
  • Globally, there is a need to better equip public health offices and create formalized periodic pandemic preparedness reviews to prevent the next crisis  

Respondent: D Dr. M Shahid Siddiqui, Media Activist and Human Rights Campaigner

Summary of Points Made

  • There is an urgent need for mass vaccinations, especially in rural areas  
  • Company manufacturers that want to produce more of the vaccine have been denied due to patent and private licensing agreements 
  • It is important for vaccines to be available to everyone, free of cost and distributed according to a national strategy in supply distribution 
  • People are worried about their health and safety, and efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy are vitally important in creating an equitable response to this humanitarian crisis  


Dr Pooja Ramakant, Professor, Department of Endocrine Surgery, King Georges’ Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Dr Pooja Ramakant is a Professor in the Endocrine & Breast Surgery Department at King Georges’ Medical University. She has authored more than 60 publications and presented in over 200 conferences throughout India and internationally. Dr Pooja has published papers in various national and international outlets, and authored two Hindi books. She is also Editor in Chief, of the Indian Journal of Endocrine Surgery & Research. Her research interests include breast cancer, thyroid cancer and adrenal tumors.

Dr Mohammad Haqmal, Senior International Public Health Expert and Chevening Scholar

Dr Mohammad Haqmal is an award-winning senior international public health and health systems innovation expert. With 18 years of experience in public health projects in South & Central Asia, he is well versed with the challenges and gaps in the healthcare domain, especially during emergencies and the pandemic. Currently, he is a lecture at the University of City London, UK. Dr Haqmal qualified as a medical doctor in Afghanistan in 2003 along with MSc in (Global Health and Development) from University College London 2013 and MPH from the University of Liverpool in UK. 

David WeakliamGlobal Health Programme Director, Health Service Executive
David Weakliam is a leader and advocate on global health issues in Ireland. Trained as a medical specialist in General Practice and Public Health Medicine, he has worked since 1988 in global health, including 12 years leading and managing health programmes in Sudan, Liberia, Nepal, Ghana and DRC.

Charlotte Kavanagh, International Communications Manager, The HOPE Foundation

Charlotte Kavanagh is the Chief Fundraising and Communications Executive at The Hope Foundation. She has been working with HOPE since 2012. Charlotte has been involved in fundraising events for HOPE all over the world including London, India and New York, in conjunction with heading up the communications team at HOPE Ireland. She has travelled around the world with HOPE Founder and Hon. Director Maureen Forrest, including to India on a yearly basis to liaise with colleagues and visit HOPE’s many projects.  

Dr Archana Seahwag is a Global Health professional, with wide ranging experience in the field of Public Health and Medicine, spanning across the government, private, academic and not-for-profit sectors. Her passion for Global Health Affairs and Policy Advocacy has helped her take keen interest in Global Health Diplomacy and Policy work. Currently she works in the Clinical Management for COVID-19 team of the Health Emergencies Program at WHO, HQ, Geneva.

Dr. M Shahid Siddiqui is a media activist and journalist specialising in the social development sector. He is also a Campaigner for Human Rights in India. Currently he is researching the situation on the ground and working to support COVID infected rural citizens in India. He is also the founder of Association for Community Research & Action (ACRA).

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