COVID-19 in India, tekst door Herman Kuppers, #6

Bericht vanuit Bhubaneswar

Bijna dagelijks hebben we contact met de projecten in Delhi, Chennai en Bhubaneswar. Gisteren kregen we onderstaand bericht van Benudhar, uit Ruchika, Bhubaneswar.

Dear Dr. Kuppers,

Hope as a doctor, you must be very busy fighting Covid-19 pandemic inyour country. But we are really afraid to see the number of cases in Belgium which has increased to 23403 with 2240 deaths. I think all our friends in Belgium are well. Of course it is a good thing that your government has extended further the lockdown to May 3. But Belgium is a very small country in terms of population in comparison to India and the people are very educated and economically strong. The medical infrastructure in Belgium is also very good as you always explain. When people like you are not able to control the pandemic, we are not able to imagine the situation of India if it spreads to our community.

But one thing we don’t understand: how China was able to control the same. Of course there are many social media who speak about conspiracy of China to control world’s economy and it has planned to become a super power in the world. But we don’t believe it because no country can push its own citizens to a death valley just to prove its superior power over the countries. We believe, it must have done something more than lockdown and sealing of the state to control the pandemic which we are not able to follow. As a senior doctor you must have some knowledge on the same. Kindly share.  

In Odisha of course, our government, learning from rest of the world, lockdown the state much early even before identification of a case in the state, started special Covid-19 hospital so that the patients won’t come in contact with other patients / people. Our government has given rice to the people for three months and some amount of money to the poor people so that they can survive for three months. But all these things are not reaching to all. As the people are not allowed to work, they have no money to buy ration and vegetables for the family. Retrenchment from big companies have already started. We expect many small and medium scale companies will be closed down. Hence, we expect serious unemployment, hunger and economic crisis in India very soon.

Though everyone is thinking and debating about the future crisis andwhat actions should our government plan now to address the same, nobody is able to imagine the real damage the country would face. At this juncture, we need your advice for our organization.


With regards,



En een extract uit ons antwoord:


“Dear Benudhar,

I think with you that India is indeed facing very difficult times.

I would like to answer your question for advice, but that is very difficult from a distance. And also emotionally charged, because we both know that there is little we can do. Yet, I will again and again propose some advice, just like in previous emails:

1.   For the children with disabilities, we know that it will be more difficult week after week. If their exercises stop, their mobility will stagnate. The children with CP are at risk of regression. Their condition will worsen, putting them at greater risk of lung infections and giving the Corona virus free rein. Because their parents are now difficult to reach, and our Health Workers have limited movement in the slum, at the risk of their own well-being, I fear the worst. Ruchika can maintain telephone contact, and you can inform me, but the most important thing we cannot do: to observe their mobility and medical condition, and especially the clinical exam, which is irreplaceable. Virtual work is a major handicap. Perhaps Saroj, Dipti and Dwivedi can continue to make phone calls to all contacts every day, providing advice. And try to get the children on the phone, where possible. Their involvement in itself is a support for these people.

2.   Children with a disability usually come last. We should try not only to pay attention to their life with a disability, but also to urge the parents that this child now needs even more care and should not be neglected.

3.   Now that everyone has to stay in their home with the lockdown, domestic violence is also increasing - also in Belgium. Partly because of frustration, partly because of increased alcohol consumption. The children can also be victims of this. On our previous visit to Bhubaneswar, I intervened several times within families in domestic violence with Saroj. We should definitely keep an eye on these families, but there are also so many families that we suspected ...

4.   Continued focus on promoting hand washing. Even if that is a difficult task in some slums. Children play together and constantly exchange things that they all touch.

5.   Keep your distance, this is also difficult in the slums, but also in the shops in the city. The slums are overcrowded, people live close together, and many of them live in one space. Attention should nevertheless be given to people being aware of the risk of infection and the routes of infection.

6.   A major problem is that the lockdown happened unexpectedly, and without communication to the population. Ruchika has therefore had too little time to create educational tools to give people some education about hygiene, washing hands and keeping distance. Through "The Hindu" there are many educational videos in Hindi and also Oriya. You can send these videos via phone to the HealthWorkers, so that they can spread them in the slum, also via phone, to keep distance.

7.   The Health Workers are your 'feelers' in the slums. Also ask them about stigmatization. Stigmatization is already on the way in major cities, especially in Delhi, Mumbay and Chennai. I can imagine that this process can go very fast in the slums, with aggression against people who are corona positive, or those who have come into contact with them. If possible, try to follow this up so that you can intervene quickly before terrible things happen.

With best regards,

Take care of yourself and each other,


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