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SAPHA - South Asian Public Health Association - logo

India’s COVID-19 Crisis: Donations, Resources, and Advocacy Opportunities

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in South Asia unfolding rapidly in India and into neighboring countries including Nepal and Pakistan, an urgent and sustained global response is needed. Currently, at least one of every three COVID-19 cases globally is being recorded in India, and the current infection and death rates are considered to be severely undercounted. The healthcare infrastructure is severely strained, with insufficient hospital beds, oxygen, and other critical medical supplies. Although vaccination eligibility was recently extended to anyone over age 18, there is insufficient vaccine supply to meet the immediate and urgent need even as India is also the site of about a fifth of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine production. This means that India’s contributions to COVAX, the global alliance for vaccine supply to the global south, are also now under threat.

Advocates are calling for equitable vaccine access globally including removing restrictions on exporting raw materials and temporarily waiving vaccine patents; offering timely supply of oxygen concentrators and generators, COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers, and other needed medical supplies; and ensuring inclusivity of the most marginalized communities, including Dalit, Adi­vasi, religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities, migrant workers, sanitary workers, domestic workers, and unhoused people.

Below are some resources providing the most up-to-date information for making local and international donations, finding on-the ground-resources for family and friends in India, and advocating for support from the U.S. to India. We will continue to update this list.





The SAPHA Board of Directors 2021-23 Application form can be found here. The deadline to apply is February 12th, 2021 at 11:59 pm PST.

We welcome applications from all individuals who are dedicated to advancing SAPHA’s mission

About SAPHA: SAPHA is a volunteer-run organization and cannot function without the dedication of its Board members, each of whom is expected to exemplify the best of SAPHA. The Board is a dynamic and hardworking team of professionals from across the United States. We seek to elect diverse, passionate, and dedicated Board members who represent a variety of interests and backgrounds applicable to public health in areas such as health disparities, mental health, clinical care, health promotion, and disease control and prevention activities. Candidates are expected to have a strong commitment to the health and well-being of South Asians and the communities in which they live, as well as strong leadership qualities to help realize and further SAPHA’s mission through collaboration with other Board members and mentorship of SAPHA members. Serving on the SAPHA Board of Directors is a time-intensive yet rewarding public service endeavor, and we invite you to join our efforts!

Open Positions: For the 2021-23 term, we are seeking applicants who can support advocacy, fundraising, or partnership efforts. While experience in these areas would be valuable, we encourage all candidates with interest to apply. There will also be opportunities to collaborate across Committees in other areas relevant to SAPHA’s mission. For an explanation of Committees, click here.

Requirements: SAPHA Board Members commit to spending approximately 10 hours per month for SAPHA activities and agree to:

The benefits of a Board membership include the opportunity to serve the public health needs of South Asians in the United States alongside passionate colleagues dedicated to SAPHA’s mission.

Application Process:

Economic and social impacts of the current pandemic that are based on immigration status, employment opportunities, and healthcare access are major issues for South Asians in the U.S. There is wide income inequality with nearly 10% of South Asians in the U.S. living in poverty. Many have low paid and temporary jobs, including in the informal sector, and little to no savings. The pandemic disproportionately impacts these communities but there has been little media coverage. To highlight this gap, we present selected research from our forthcoming manuscript to be published later this month, which are complemented by community-based findings from the recent SAALT report on the disparate impact of COVID-19 across South Asian communities.

>11% of South Asians in the U.S.1 and >23% in NYC2 are undocumented and excluded from COVID-19 services and support. Many undocumented South Asians work in essential services like grocery stores and restaurants; as taxi and rideshare drivers; in salons, retail and hospitality; and in allied health professions. Many have also experienced job loss and revenue loss as these industries closed or slowed down. More than 686,000 undocumented South Asians, as well as mixed-status families, are excluded from support during the pandemic including benefits like unemployment support and other financial relief programs, and inadequate healthcare provisions such as inaccessible testing and treatment. Undocumented workers including South Asians are at higher risk for COVID-related consequences due to inadequate or overcrowded housing, precarious employment and lack of access to financing, and ineligibility for health insurance, amongst other things.3-7

Foreign-born South Asians in the U.S. are a substantial portion of the frontline healthcare workforce during this pandemic.8-10 One in four doctors are international medical graduates,11 and one in 20 doctors are of Indian origin.12 South Asian international medical graduates report mainly practicing in primary care specialties and underserved rural areas. While there are some visa protections for temporary impacts to work, suspension of H1-B visa programs threatens the renewal of visa status for current doctors and for new doctors in the coming years. Doctors with H1B visa status are concerned about their visa status being tied to their employment. Working on the frontlines risks their health and an inability to return to work due to extended disability, incapacitation, or death could result in the deportation of family members.13-15

Nearly 20% of South Asians in the U.S. lack health insurance,1 delaying diagnosis & treatment of COVID-19.16-17 Although more than half of South Asians in the U.S. report access to healthcare, about two in five under age 65 report no regular source of care.1 Recent job losses and small business closures have only increased the number of uninsured across the U.S. Linguistic and cultural barriers to healthcare also exist. Despite federal regulations, translation services commonly exclude South Asian languages.18-20 Local community organizations report an increased need for support and are overwhelmed trying to aid communities with limited resources.21 Emerging “public charge” legislation that limits non-citizens from using government programs has heightened wariness in seeking services.22-23 Although paused for COVID-19, immigrants including South Asians remain hesitant to access healthcare due to misinformation and fear of deportation.24-25

Rapid changes to deliver healthcare virtually do not meet needs equally, including South Asians in the U.S.26-27 The sudden reliance on telehealth may be a burden for South Asians in the U.S., especially those who are taking precautions to social distance away from family members who would be capable of providing translation services and technological support. Low-income and undocumented South Asians who are more likely to lack insurance or primary care and typically rely on public hospitals and emergency rooms for affordable care have found themselves facing even more limited healthcare options, particularly in high-risk cities. South Asian clinicians are expected to learn how to maintain and enhance interpersonal skills that establish effective in-person consultation while they learn new skills as the curators (administrators), creators (architects), and moderators (mediators) in the digital space.28-30

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asians in the U.S.  need equitable policies and protections regardless of immigration status. For South Asians, particularly immigrants who are essential and frontline workers,  there is an urgent need for services and support to promote economic recovery and ensure healthcare access. We recommend (1) More robust data disaggregation; (2) Linguistically accessible health information and care; (3) Legislation for economic recovery available to all; and (4) Immigration protections for health and safety. Partnering with and funding community organizations already doing the groundwork to provide services in South Asian communities are key steps to achieve these recommendations. For a list of organizations, see the SAALT National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO) list.


  1. SAALT.  2019. “Demographic Snapshot of South Asians in the United States: April 2019.”
  2. DRUM. 2012. “Worker Rights are Human Rights: South Asian Immigrant Workers in New York City.”
  3. Chowdhury, Rebecca. 2020. “Many undocumented immigrants are frontline workers, but their families can’t get government aid.” Th Appeal.
  4. Naveed, Hina. 2020. “I’m a nurse battling against COVID-19, but DACA fight could end in my deportation.” USA Today.
  5. New York City Comptroller, 2020. “New York City’s Frontline Workers.”
  6. Mozumder, Suman G. 2020. “Low-wage South Asian workers in the U.S. hard hit by coronavirus business downturn.” India Abroad.
  7. Liao, Shannon. 2020. “Unemployment claims from Asian Americans have spiked 6,900% in New York. Here’s why.” CNN.
  8. Raymer, Steve. 2004. “Indian doctors help fill U.S. health care needs.” Yale.
  9. Rao, Meghna. 2020. “The South Asian Frontliners of New York.” The Juggernaut.
  10. Park, Jewel, and Hye Chang Rhim. 2020. “Consequences of COVID-19 on international medical graduates and students applying to residencies in the United States.” Korean Journal of Medical Education 32(2): 91.
  11. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. “IMGs in the United States.”
  12. Raymer, Steve. 2004. YaleGlobal Online. “Indian Doctors Help Fill US Health Care Needs.”
  13. Ordoñez, Franco. 2020. National Public Radio. “Trump Freezes Green Cards, Many Work Visas Until End Of Year.”
  14. Constate, Agnes. 2020. “Fear of deportation heightened for immigrant doctors on H-1B visas amid pandemic.” NBC News.
  15. Malhotra, Ashish. 2020. “Foreign doctors on front lines of COVID-19 fear deportation from U.S.” Los Angeles Times.
  16. Ramakrishnan, Karthik and Farah Z. Ahmad. 2014. “Health Care and Health Outcomes”. Center for American Progress.
  17. Lee, Sunmin, Genevieve Martinez, Grace X. Ma, Chiehwen E. Hsu, E. Stephanie Robinson, Julie Bawa, and Hee-Soon Juon. 2010. “Barriers to health care access in 13 Asian American communities.” American Journal of Health Behavior 34(1): 21-30.
  18. Kang, Esther Yoon-Ji. 2020. “Asian Americans Feel The Bite Of Prejudice During The COVID-19 Pandemic.” National Public Radio.
  19. Eldred, Sheila M. 2018. “With Scarce Access to Interpreters, Immigrants Struggle to Understand Doctors’ Orders.” National Public Radio.
  20. Scarborough, William, Lewis, Amanda E., and Ivan Arenas. 2018. “A Tale of Diversity, Disparity, and Discrimination: The State of Racial Justice for Asian American Chicagoans.” Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy; University of Illinois at Chicago.
  21. Chung, Christine, Claudia I. Aponte, and Ann Choi. 2020. “NYC South Asian leaders say community COVID toll undercounted.” The City, 26 April.
  22. Page, Kathleen R., Venkataramani Maya, Beyrer, Chris,and Sarah Polk. 2020. “Undocumented U.S. Immigrants And COVID-19.” New England Journal of Medicine, 382(21): e62.
  23. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2019. “Disparities Policy: Changes to “Public Charge” Inadmissibility Rule: Implications for Health and Health Coverage.”
  24. McFarling, Usha Lee. 2020. “Fearing deportation, many immigrants at higher risk of Covid-19 are afraid to seek testing or care.” STAT News.
  25. Jha, Ritu. 2019. “New Public Charge Rule would be Affecting Many Low-Income, South Asian Families.” IndicaNews.
  26. Williams, David R., and Lisa A. Cooper. 2020. “COVID-19 and Health Equity—A New Kind of “Herd Immunity”.” JAMA 323(24):2478–2480.
  27. Wosik, Jedrek, Fudim, Marat, Cameron, Blake, Gellad, Ziad F., Cho, Alex, Phinney, Donna, Curtis, Simon, Roman, Matthew, Poon, Eric G., Ferranti, Jeffrey, Katz, Jason N., and James Tcheng. 2020. “Telehealth transformation: COVID-19 and the rise of virtual care.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 27(6): 957-962.
  28. Mallin M, Schlein S, Doctor S. 2014. A survey of the current utilization of asynchronous education among emergency medicine residents in the United States. Acad Med. 89(4): 598-601.
  29. Cabrera D, Vartabedian BS, Spinner RJ, Jordan BL, et al. 2017. More than likes and Tweets: Creating Social Media Portfolios for Academic Promotion and Tenure. J Grad Med Educ 9(4): 421-425.
  30. Lurie N, Carr BG. 2018. The role of telehealth in the medical response to disasters. JAMA Intern Med. 178(6): 745-74.

The South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) would like to thank the 50+ organizations that signed onto our joint statement on the impact of the pandemic response on our Asian American and South Asian American communities. It has been powerful to have Asian American and South Asian American organizations across the nation come together to share this important message. We hope this statement continues to elevate the public health needs of our communities during this challenging time.

The signed version of the statement can be found here. We encourage you to share this letter with your networks, post it on your social media, and use it as a tool for your advocacy efforts.

SAPHA is a public health organization focused on promoting the health and well-being of South Asians in the US through advocacy, education, and research. If your organization would like to collaborate with us, please email us at We are heartened by these partnerships and look forward to working together in the future.

Dear colleagues,

Last week, SAPHA released a statement to highlight public health gaps in the federal response to the pandemic that have particularly impacted Asian American and South Asian American communities.

Following feedback from the community, we are sharing a sign-on statement for organizations to express solidarity against the inadequate public health response concerning the health and well-being of our Asian American and South Asian American communities. Please feel free to circulate across your networks.

To add your organization’s name as a signatory to the joint statement, click here by 5:00 pm EDT on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020.

If you have any questions, feedback, or concerns, please reach out to us at

We thank you in advance for your partnership!

In good health,
Yousra Yusuf, MPH
SAPHA President

The world has been confronting a global pandemic that is putting our public health infrastructure to the test. In the US, there have been over 823,250 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, April 21st, 2020. Coronavirus disease has particularly affected cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle, among others. The South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) is releasing this statement to highlight public health gaps in the US government’s response that have particularly affected Asian American and South Asian American communities.

New York City, which is home to the largest concentration of South Asians in the US, has recorded the greatest number of cases in the country. Neighborhoods with low median incomes have been particularly hard hit. Among them, neighborhoods such as the South Bronx and Queens are home to many South Asian Americans. These areas house many immigrant families living in close quarters with individuals employed in the service industry without telecommuting options. Many of these individuals are subject to employment instability and lack adequate health insurance or access to health care. Undocumented immigrants from our communities face especially harsh economic and healthcare challenges. Healthcare facilities in these neighborhoods are struggling with assisting a huge influx of COVID-19 patients while grappling with shortages of medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to safely provide care and ensure staff safety. Countless healthcare workers, including many from our own communities, are tirelessly providing care even at risk to their health.

Across the US, in addition to responding to the disease, Asian American communities are facing the challenge of racist attacks on individuals and businesses. Bigoted language from elected officials has intensified stereotypes and created an atmosphere of fear in the community. There has been no federal response even though over 450 civil rights, social justice, and labor organizations have signed a letter calling on Congress to denounce anti-Asian racism related to COVID-19.

In these unprecedented times, we need to employ novel strategies to ensure the health and well-being of all our communities. As we look past the first spike of this disease and the reported flattening of the curve across many areas in the country in the past few days, opening the economy without adequate plans in place would be detrimental to the health and economy of our communities.

SAPHA stands in solidarity with Asian American and South Asian American communities across the US to demand better investment and care. We express deep sadness at the lives and livelihoods lost as a result of this pandemic. We also convey worry for community members on the frontlines— from grocery stores to healthcare facilities— who are facing avoidable risks to their health.

SAPHA joins the wider public health community, demanding increased testing capacity and resources to meet the PPE shortages in healthcare facilities to respond to the current pandemic. SAPHA also strongly advocates for collecting and reporting disaggregated data by age, race, sex, and socio-economic levels of those who are tested, hospitalized, or lose their lives to COVID-19 to develop appropriate public health and economic resources and policies to better serve our communities.

SAPHA calls on all levels of the federal, state, and local governments to respond to the pandemic with appropriate public health measures that are in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and international recommendations. While this pandemic is a stark reminder of the ongoing inequalities in health in the US, we believe a robust and coordinated response that utilizes existing public health knowledge, resources, and skills has the potential for meaningful and lasting change.


The South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) promotes the health and well-being of South Asian communities by advancing the field of South Asian public health through interactions among health professionals and shared resources, focusing on research, education, communication, and advocacy.

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