Foreign aid allocated to states, UTs for COVID management

Kuwait releases a shipment of 282 oxygen cylinders, 60 oxygen ventilators and other medical supplies to help India tackle the rise in deaths nationwide due to Covid-19, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. PTI

New Delhi: The aid received from other countries has been allocated to different states, keeping in mind equitable distribution and the load on tertiary healthcare facilities, to help deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry asserted that the Union Government did not waste time in effective allocation and distribution of pandemic relief material.

Based on the criteria and principles laid out by the ministry, depending on each state's requirement, 24 different categories of items numbering nearly 40 lakh were distributed to 38 institutions in different states, the ministry said in a statement.

These institutions included AIIMS Delhi, PGI Chandigarh, DRDO Dehradun, NEIGRIHMS Shillong, DRDO Patna and JIPMER Puducherry.

Major categories of equipment include BiPAP machines; oxygen (concentrators, cylinders, PSA oxygen plants and pulse oximeters); drugs (Favipiravir and Remdesivir); and PPE (coveralls, N-95 masks and gowns).

Since grant in aid is limited in quantity, it has to be optimally utilized by allocating it to high-burden states (states with higher number of active cases) where the requirement for such equipment/medicines is more, according to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for allocations.

While the SOP for allocations was issued by the Health Ministry on May 2, the work for receipt, allocation and distribution to the states and UTs through the central and other health institutions began immediately as the global community started to support Government of India's efforts to fight the global pandemic.

Spreading such aid thinly each time over a large number of states may not bring forth the desired results, the ministry said, adding it will also lead to small packages travelling large distances, high turnaround times and possible wastage of resources.

Foreign aid allocated to states, UTs for COVID management
Second shipment from Ireland carrying 2 oxygen generators, 548 oxygen concentrators, 365 ventilators & other medical equipment arrives. PTI

The requirement of the high-burden states in the context of number of people admitted in hospitals and prior distribution done by the central government resources would also be considered.

A special focus can also be on the states considered medical hubs of the region which have a patient in-flow from neighbouring states and cities.

In some cases, resource-low states such as the north eastern and hill states where tankers etc don't reach can also be covered to shore up their needs, the ministry said.

The 31 states and UTs which have either received or where the equipment has been dispatched include - Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Karnataka.

As the different tranches are coming in, the rest of the states and UTs will also be covered in the coming days.

For all consignments received via MEA and coming as donations from foreign countries, the consignee is the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS). Upon receipt of the papers outlined in the process flowchart, the IRCS issues the necessary certificates immediately to HLL for processing customs and regulatory clearances at airports.

The IRCS also ensures liaison with MoHFW and HLL so that delays are reduced and quick turnarounds are achieved, the ministry said. The HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL) is the customs agent for IRCS, and the distribution manager for MoHFW.

The consignments are processed at airport and transported for distribution by HLL. In case of consignments arriving at military airports, or bog items like oxygen plants, Dept of Military Affairs (DMA) assists HLL.

"Accessibility and the immediate use of resources to save the lives drives the need for immediate allocation of short-notice incoming consignments. The materials from abroad are currently coming in different numbers, specifications and at different times, the statement said.

"Hence there is a need to reconcile the distribution logistics with the need to reach the materials as expeditiously as possible to the states," it added.

The allocations are done keeping in mind equitable distribution and the load on tertiary healthcare facilities.

In the first few days, the states were covered via the AIIMS and other central institutions where the critical care patients load is high and where the need is highest.

Besides, the central government hospitals, including DRDO facilities in Delhi and NCR were also supplemented through the aid. It has been seen that tertiary healthcare facilities normally have higher number of cases with severe symptoms of COVID and are often the only succour to people in the region for quality tertiary care, according to the statement.

A cell was created in the Health Ministry under additional secretary to coordinate the receipt and allocation of foreign COVID relief material as grants, aid and donations.

This cell started functioning on April 26 and comprises one joint secretary on deputation from Ministry of Education, two additional secretary-level officers from MEA, chief commissioner customs, economic advisor from Ministry of Civil Aviation, technical advisor Dte. GHS, representatives from HLL, two joint secretaries from health ministry and secretary general along with another representatives from IRCS.

The medical items started coming in as donations from different countries after the rise in sudden cases of COVID across the different parts of the country from the last week of April, via the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

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