NJ family mourns loss of Patriarch, raises awareness of COVID outbreak in India
A Bergen County family mourning the loss of a beloved patriarch is channeling their grief in an effort to raise awareness of India’s current coronavirus crisis.
Kanwarijt Walia, 94, died in India on April 25, following a two-week battle with the disease that has killed more than 3.2 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Walia’s granddaughter Avani Singh, from Rutherford, said it was a reminder that many countries around the world are still at the heart of the pandemic and that in some places, like India, it is is far from over.
“People might think that what is happening (in India) is really far away. But it touches very close to home for many families, including mine, ”Singh told NJ Advance Media.
Singh said that initially his grandfather’s prognosis was encouraging.
Hospitals have been criticized for operating at their maximum capacity. It was difficult to find an affordable supply of oxygen for him, but doctors said he was going to be fine, Singh said.
“My grandfather was rapidly declining in front of us, and we had no hospital to take him to. There were no ambulances. We couldn’t get him oxygen. We found a hospital that would take him, only if he brought his own oxygen, ”Singh said of his family’s efforts to get treatment from afar.
India has seen an increase in the number of cases, from a seven-day average of 65,000 cases reported in early April to a seven-day average of more than 370,000 cases reported in early May, The New York Times reported. Experts told the Wall Street Journal that the outbreak was due to a combination of factors, including the easing of restrictions such as wearing masks, large gatherings and several different strains of the virus circulating in the country.
Overall, India has experienced nearly 22 million cases of the coronavirus and nearly 240,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins figures released on Saturday.
Several online campaigns have sprung up for relief efforts in the world’s second most populous country. Organizations such as the Hemkut Foundation, Khalsa Aid and Give India provide support, including helping pay for oxygen supplies.
Singh and his family are far from alone in trying to help family members in India who are struggling with the second wave of the disease. In 2019, there were nearly 390,000 Indian-Americans in New Jersey, a number that continues to climb, according to the East-West Center of the United States.
Last week, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pleaded for increased support in India.
“I urge the administration (Biden) to continue increasing the provision of supplies and resources to countries hard hit by the pandemic. Conditions in India clearly warrant a response, ”Menendez said. “India and the Indian people have supported the United States during the first days of the pandemic here, and we must do the same in the face of this unprecedented wave.”
Singh’s family started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for her grandfather’s medical care, as his insurance only covered four days in the hospital, she said. Further donations will be given, on Walia’s behalf, to organizations fighting COVID-19 on the ground in India, Singh said. So far, it has raised over $ 9,000.
“We cannot let our guard down because this is what happened in India …” Singh said. “Continue to be vigilant. Continue to support communities around the world that are experiencing outbreaks, because you never hope it was us, but it could be us. “
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Tennyson Donyèa can be reached at [email protected].