India’s Second COVID Wave: How Can I Help?

India’s Second COVID Wave: How Can I Help?

The second wave of COVID-19 infections in India this spring has overwhelmed hospitals and both urban and rural communities. As of May 14, more than 24 million cases of COVID-19 and 262,317 deaths have been reported. India’s population density and diversity — it has 29 states, each with its own languages, cultures, and religions — adds complexity to relief efforts. The latest surge is more rural than the first wave, making delivery of care and services even more challenging. Further complicating matters is the emergence of new virus variants.
Individuals and institutions in India and around the world are stepping forward to provide urgently needed assistance. Whether you have $10 to give or $10,000, here’s how to help. 

Remember the Principles of Effective Crisis Grantmaking

In this latest and urgent crisis, three principles of effective grantmaking remain true: Give immediately. Give flexibly and consistently. Consider both grassroots and larger, networked organizations. Here’s why:

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Give immediately. India has a robust civil sector which relies heavily on philanthropy. The scale of this crisis means all nonprofit organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) working in the region are affected and needed for effective response. Giving immediately shores up the infrastructure that communities across India rely on. If you already have trusted partners in India, find out what their needs are and provide financial support now.

Give flexibly and consistently. Now is the time to consider removing restrictions of timing or purpose. For example, if you are an individual who gives a small amount every month and can afford to, make a larger donation at one time. If you are a grantmaker who gives restricted grants, consider converting those grants to general operating/emergency funding.

Consider both grassroots organizations and larger, networked organizations. Grassroots organizations often know how to reach people in affected geographic areas who are especially vulnerable and/or hard to reach. Networked organizations and their partners like the Indian Red Cross are coordinating with the Indian national and state governments and know the global supply chain, logistics, and resources available across sectors.

For more on evidence-based strategies, visit COVID-19 Pandemic: How Can I Help? and High Impact Giving in the Age of COVID.

Intermediary Funds Supporting In-Country Organizations

One of the easiest ways to help is to provide financial support to an intermediary fund that provides funding to a wide range of nonprofits working in-country. Due to the breadth of the work they support, such funds often have good knowledge of the changing needs on the ground and which organizations are well positioned to help. Intermediary funds serve as an important bridge among and between the many stakeholders needed for effective crisis response, including outside donors, grassroots organizations, corporations, and governments.

Dasra has long facilitated collaborations between donors, nonprofits, corporations, and governments. Its COVID-19 fund will pass 100% of donations to local organizations that are importing oxygen concentrators for hospitals, testing communities for co-morbidities, providing support to migrant communities, and delivering much-needed food and aid.

GiveIndia, an intermediary crowdfunding platform that coordinates with several COVID-19 fundraisers in India and has the support of multiple high net worth individuals and corporations including Google and Microsoft, is boosting oxygen supply, distributing food to families struggling with hunger, providing sanitary napkins for women, and giving cash support to families with deceased loved ones.

American India Foundation, founded by Indian Americans, the largest group of the Indian diaspora outside of India, focuses on securing medical equipment and PPE, setting up portable hospitals, and decentralizing vaccine administration.

Strategies to Address Needs and Nonprofits Implementing Them

Effective crisis philanthropy requires considering all phases of disaster response, from immediate and urgent relief, to mid-term efforts that enable recovery, to changes that help communities build back better. Here we outline specific, evidence-based strategies for donors to support, along with the nonprofits implementing those strategies.

Now (next 4-6 weeks) 

Reduce mortality and save lives now

Health facilities are unable to cope with the current surge of cases. Providing PPE for healthcare workers; delivering ventilators, oxygen, and medical supplies to hospitals; and providing logistics and infrastructure support are urgent, immediate needs that donors can address.

How to Help

The Indian Red Cross is responding to the current COVID-19 outbreak by delivering emergency medical supplies, including oxygen concentrators, ventilators, and bedside monitors.

Americares is working with 14 states in India to provide ventilators, oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, thermometers, and other critical medical materials. The nonprofit is also providing PPE to protect frontline health workers, telehealth consultations and medicine delivery, and community education to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The International Association for Human Values (IAHV) is identifying needs with the state and district governments and sourcing and distributing medical equipment to the local government authorities across India.

ACT Grants is a fund created by India’s venture capital and start-up community to address shortages in oxygen supply, provide medical equipment, ramp up testing, and work to scale up vaccinations. ACT Grants is now working with Amazon, the Singapore-based Temasek Foundation, and the Pune Platform for COVID-19 Response to rapidly procure and airlift medical equipment.

Oxygen for India Fund, started by an Indian American physician at the University of Pennsylvania, crowdfunds to send oxygen supplies directly to state-run hospitals in India in six major cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Bangalore, and Kolkata. Real-time updates are posted on the website.

Reduce new infections

Proven public health measures for reducing infections include supporting social distancing, mask wearing, and sanitation measures.

How to Help

Mercy Corps sends teams into remote parts of India to educate communities about COVID-19, combat misinformation, distribute kits with hygiene supplies, and improve access to clean water and toilets.

Children’s Hope India (CHI) has launched COVID-19 facilities to treat patients, provide oxygen, and relieve overburdened hospitals while isolating patients from crowded family homes and urban slums. In rural Pune, Bhopal, and Jodhpur, CHI is providing services that include portable hospitals, vaccination camps, meals, and financial support to affected families.

ActionAid is supporting emergency response to the COVID-19 surge in India by sharing essential public health information with vulnerable communities and supporting essential services such as emergency shelters for women at risk of domestic violence.

Ashoka University’s Centre for Social and Behavior Change based in Sonipat, Haryana, India is working with India’s central and state governments to research, test, and develop communications to drive behaviors that reduce transmission of disease and improve the likelihood of vaccine uptake.

Project HOPE is collaborating with local partners and government officials to procure and distribute medical equipment and supplies, while also training local frontline healthcare workers on Project HOPE’s COVID-19 curriculum with Brown University, and promoting public health awareness and vaccination campaigns through social mobilization initiatives.

Increase COVID-19 testing capacity 

More testing allows those who are positive to self-quarantine and public health workers to predict hospitalizations and deaths to follow 2-3 weeks after surges in cases.

How to Help

UNICEF provides supplies like critical oxygen concentrators, PPE kits, and diagnostic testing systems to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and support India’s frontline healthcare workers. The organization is also working with India’s Ministry of Health to provide accurate, timely, and informed messaging to the general public so that they can encourage vaccination.

Ease the disruption caused by COVID-19

The second wave of COVID-19 has caused widespread disruptions in lives and businesses. Several states have shut down schools and businesses to slow transmissions, which can add to privations. Organizations can provide economic and immediate relief for basic needs.

How to Help

Oxfam India is engaging with local policymakers to aid in vaccine distribution, and providing food and direct cash transfers to marginalized households, in addition to distributing PPE, safety kits, and medical equipment at hospitals and healthcare centers.

Mutual Aid India provides a list of carefully vetted campaigns and mutual aid funds to help individual people or families directly.

Save The Children runs India’s COVID-19 Crisis Children’s Relief Fund, which helps vulnerable children by providing first aid kits, hand sanitizer, and nutritious food for families in crisis, as well as other needed medical supplies (oxygen, ventilators, medicine, etc).

Feeding India with its network of 26,000+ volunteers across 100+ cities, is supplying food to underserved communities, including those in lockdown from COVID-19. Through their Feed Every Child campaign, the organization procures and distributes meal kits through non-government and slum schools that meet each child’s nutritional requirement for a month, incentivizing education.

India FoodBanking Network is supporting daily wagers and migrant workers who have lost their livelihoods during COVID-19, reaching out to them with ration kits that include raw food materials and packaged products.

Global Foodbanking Network Fund will direct raised funds to network members in India working to provide food to COVID-19 patients, children, migrant laborers, front line workers, and senior citizens.

Give2Asia works with a  few trusted NGO partners to provide frontline workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers, soap, and disinfectant sprays. They also support marginalized families with nutritious meals, including cooked meals and dry rations, and direct financial support.

Short to medium term (next 6 months) 

Prevent deaths and infections via vaccination

India is a prominent manufacturer of vaccines, but there is a supply issue. The national vaccination policy widened eligibility to every adult since May 1 — 940 million people, far exceeding supply and delivery systems. The next wave of infections can be curbed by increasing capacity of manufacturing, partnering with community-based organizations that can help deliver vaccines to populations they have been serving, and promoting strategies for public health messages to counter vaccine hesitancy. Combating hesitancy, such as training local healthcare workers and community leaders to be vaccine champions, is critical to the success of the vaccine rollout.

How to Help

Sewa is running vaccine and plasma drives, distributing PPE and groceries and meals, and providing webinars, non-medical helpline centers, and case management, in addition to raising funds for oxygen concentrators and ventilators for  hospitals across India. 

The Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF) is working to support rural communities and public health systems in 73 of the least developed rural districts of India (e.g., Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh) to increase oxygen supply, ramp up testing, and provide vaccination support.

The Center for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) is working with vulnerable communities, state governments, and media, including regional and district outlets, so that accurate, timely, and credible information on the pandemic is available, and communities can take action to protect themselves from the virus and its spread. 

COVAX is coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and others to provide equitable access to the world’s largest vaccine candidates, including those for COVID-19: 156 economies have signed up, representing nearly two thirds of the global population.

Johns Hopkins India Institute COVID Relief Fund provides direct financial support to Johns Hopkins collaborative efforts with their India-based partner organizations to meet oxygen supply needs, PPE, and community outreach to raise vaccine and home-care awareness.

Long term (6+ months)

Shore up India’s public health system 

Medical and public health systems need to be strengthened to respond to COVID-19 and ongoing health needs.

How to Help

The Public Health Foundation of India, a collaborative among private donations and all levels of the public sector, international academia, agencies, and civil society groups, works to strengthen public health training, education, and practice in India.

To scale any of the strategies above requires all sectors — private businesses, government, local and external donors — and on the ground partners.

PATH and the government of India are installing ten oxygen generation plants in government medical facilities in Uttar Pradesh and five in Bihar. These plants are critical to not only meeting the urgent need for oxygen in these states due to COVID-19, but increased production capacity will also support the management of other health conditions, by providing oxygen to mothers in labor, children with pneumonia, and individuals undergoing surgery.

Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Healthcare Foundation (WISH) works to scale up high-impact innovations to build an equitable healthcare system and make quality primary healthcare accessible to underserved populations in the Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha.


To identify the strategies and organizations described in this guidance, our team:

  • Reviewed more than 30 news sources and reports
  • Participated in webinars examining different facets of COVID-19 response in India
  • Referred to our existing applied research on effective crisis grantmaking
  • Sought input from relevant experts in CHIP’s network.

Several of these sources provided curated and vetted lists of organizations and funding intermediaries. You will find these sources and lists in Additional Resources below.

While many other nonprofits and funds may also be doing excellent work, we selected those we mentioned based on one or more of the following criteria:

  • Work was consistent with the evidence-based strategies we identified;
  • Track record as established providers and/or recognized as pioneers in their respective areas;
  • Experience scaling up models into different settings and/or operating programs that seem especially replicable;
  • Currently working in especially hard-hit areas.

Before we listed nonprofits or pooled funds, we did a final check for red flags by vetting organizations against available information on Candid/Guidestar, Charity Navigator/Impact Audits, and through a Google search.

Additional Resources

Lists of organizations and funds curated by donors and intermediaries:

The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) COVID-19 India Emergency Response: Funding Opportunities: This is a summary of actions TPW community members are taking, information and resources on support, and recommendations for funding the on-the-ground response. This resource includes a list of nonprofits to support.

Center for Disaster Philanthropy  held a webinar, Funding COVID-19 Response in India: How an Urgent Crisis Affects Us All to provide guidance to donors responding to India’s severe second wave. Their COVID-19 Response Fund funds organizations worldwide.

New England International Donors May 2021 Newsletter/Website: The website lists vetted opportunities to support COVID-19 relief in India.

Johns Hopkins India Institute COVID-19 Task Force: The task force was formed to respond to needs identified by their partners on the ground to raise awareness, and coordinate activities, services, and opportunities in response to COVID-19. Existing partners and other organizations are listed for direct donation, and a live Slack channel is provided for real time updates.

Indiaspora: NGOs providing COVID-19 Relief in India (includes Dashboard): A vetted list of NGO organizations working on different aspects of COVID-19 relief in India and information on how to contribute.

India COVID SOS: A list of pre-screened organizations to develop, procure, and distribute technologies for COVID-19 treatment and provide food, cash transfers, and other essential supplies to India.

Bridgespan Framework for Philanthropic Responses to COVID-19 in India: A resource which outlines the urgency of the COVID-19 surge in India, provides information on potential opportunity areas for philanthropic investment, and offers illustrative organization profiles for giving.

Document Resource from Gates Foundation 5/7/21 Webinar “Philanthropic Response to COVID-19 in India”: Provides an overview of the issues with this current surge of COVID-19 in India, the strategies the Indian government is focusing on to ramp up health infrastructure, and opportunities for philanthropic investment to assist. They also offer specific vetted nonprofits for each of these opportunities.

India and COVID Response – Business Fights Poverty: This is a business-led network focused on social impact and lists organizations working on providing oxygen-related suppliers and other immediate support to India.

Community Based Approaches to Health Cover and Inside SpreadMore Guidance

In our 2021 Annual Guide: High Impact Giving in the Age of COVID, learn about nonprofits making an impact in health, education, economic opportunity, and reliable information.

In Community-Based Approaches to Health, learn about strategies to transform the health of the world’s neglected populations by delivering services at the community level.