India is all set to sending humanitarian aid in the form of pharmaceutical and other items, including Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) & paracetamol, to SAARC countries and to Mauritius and Seychelles. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that “The humanitarian aid package including the anti-malaria drug, paracetamol, additionally other items are being prepared to be sent to some countries in Africa and Latin America.”
Also, “The government is processing requests for medicines from other countries depending on the availability and these would be supplied on a commercial basis,” sources quoted above added.
As has been reported earlier, the HCQ is being sent to those countries first which are severely hit by the Coronavirus, therefore, the Ministry of External Affairs has prepared an inventory of these countries which have sought help from India.
The first list of 13 countries approved to receive the anti-malaria drug include: US; Europe: Spain & Germany; Neighbourhood: Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives & Bangladesh; Indian Ocean Region (IOR): Seychelles & Mauritius; South America: Brazil & Dominican Republic; West Asia: Bahrain.
In Africa, out of the 54 nations, so far more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported and the numbers are expected to go up. Several countries from the continents have reached out to India seeking help in terms of medicines, protective medical gear, as well as medical devices.
A senior officer who wished to remain anonymous has told Financial Express Online that “Countries including South Africa (which is also a member of BRICS & IBSA), Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe have sought India’s help to fight COVID-19.”
Says Prof Ajay Dubey, Chair: Centre for African Studies, JNU, “Under Corona Virus Crisis (CVC) African countries eagerly look towards their friendly countries including India. India has been a major exporter of pharmaceutical products in Africa, especially in the Eastern African region. It is known for affordable and reliable drugs in this region. Besides this, India also supports African countries in the health sector through its various projects under India Africa Forum Summits (IAFS). The telemedicine project of India is spread in different parts of African continent.
“The recent news about India having good stock and high production capacity of anti-malaria drug HCQ has naturally made several African countries to send SOS for this drug as they have several protocols and existing bilateral programmes to request priority supply of these drugs as well as equipment, masks, and medical dresses required for handling this pandemic”, Dubey observes.
India too has high domestic requirements and there are several other countries like Italy, Spain, the US which have a higher degree of an ongoing humanitarian crisis, deaths due to this pandemic.
“India has to prioritize and sequence its export of these commodities. African countries are preferred, partner. And the Indian companies are well established in their supply of pharma products over there. Therefore, India will positively respond to the call of several African countries to provide help during this CVC. Once India decides to reach out to Africa, private sectors of India will take little time to deliver these products and services in Africa,” Dubey concludes.
According to Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, “Considering our strategic relationship with countries like the US, West Asian and African and BRICS countries, requests for help from these countries will be considered as a goodwill gesture .”