Foreign COVID Aid: Karnataka, Kerala Did Not Get What Was Promised

District health officials of Kerala and Karnataka said that the aid allocated from the Centre is less than expected.

3 min read
Foreign COVID Aid: Karnataka, Kerala Did Not Get What Was Promised

As India struggled with the 'second wave' of COVID-19, foreign aid poured in from many countries - oxygen plants, concentrators and cylinders, ventilators, bedside medical equipment, masks and remdesivir injection vials. But this was not equitably distributed across Indian states, The Quint has found.

This story is the third in a three-part series on the elusive foreign aid. The first and the second parts can read here and here.

The deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka and head of COVID task force of the state, CN Ashwath Narayan had announced in the first week of May that the state has received foreign aid through the Centre. State district health officials, however, have a different tale to narrate.


According to 10 district health officials whom The Quint contacted, nine said that they are still waiting to receive their share of foreign aid, distributed through the National Health Mission’s state’s unit. One official said he had received masks and remdesivir vials. A source in the state’s health department said, “Though aid was allotted, we have not received all the items in the quantities listed. All of what came our way was distributed to the districts”.

In Karnataka’s neighbouring state Kerala, the picture is grimmer. The state has so far received just one foreign aid consignment. The state officials, however, did not reveal the exact number of medical equipment units and drugs that were shipped to them.

Karnataka Hospitals Need a Lot More

The Quint reached out to some of the hospitals which were expected to receive aid in rural Karnataka. Most confirmed that they have received neither medical equipment nor critical drugs.

In Bagalkote district hospital, doctors have been requesting for Remdesivir injection vials. “We were told that we will get aid from different countries, but this has not happened so far. No health official from the district administration has reached out with help to provide Remdesivir injections,” a senior doctor of the hospital said.

Bagalkote is one among the districts which has not received foreign aid, a health official told The Quint.

The state also needs Amphotericin-B injections as it has over 400 reported cases of mucormycosis. “Karnataka has requested the Centre to step in and help. But so far we have not received any assurance,” a senior health official said. Meanwhile, a government hospital in Bengaluru which had placed an order for 6,500 vials of Remdesivir said it did not get even half the stock it requested, a doctor said. There are 35 designated COVID hospitals in Karnataka who have received paltry provisions of aid, a health official confirmed.

Karnataka's Deputy CM was not available for a comment on aid distribution in the state. The report will be updated if his office responds.


Endless Wait in Kerala

In Kerala, a senior health official said that the single consignment which has reached will not be enough. “We are expecting three more consignments in the coming weeks. We are hoping that aid will be distributed equitably between states,” he said. Kerala has, in its own administrative capacity, tried to arrange aid from foreign countries.

“The state’s efforts to get foreign aid directly are fruitful. We have got aid through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects of foreign industries. But the Centre’s promises have not yielded any result,” a health official said.

An investigation by the Reporter’s Collective, however, has found that 3.05 lakh items of the 57.69 lakh received as aid were stuck in transit.

According to a senior government doctor in Kerala, even if the state arranges for aid from other sources, the Centre’s quota should ideally reach hospitals. “Any support from the Centre is welcome. But if foreign aid through the Centre does not reach state hospitals, we will have to say that we are being ignored,” he said.

According to government records, India had received 40 lakh items in aid from countries including US, UK, Australia, France, Russia and Switzerland, among others.

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