In Varanasi Christians, Hindus and Muslims donate blood for hospitals under pressure from COVID-19
by Nirmala Carvalho

Members of various religions donate blood in one of the cities most affected by the new COVID-19 surge that is bringing the country to its knees. Some people accuse the government of hiding the true number of deaths. “People are dying in the streets,” said Father Mathew. “People are burning bodies of the dead everywhere.”


Varanasi (AsiaNews) – As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Christians, Hindus and Muslims have come together to donate blood in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the local section of the Conference of Religious of India (which brings together male and female Catholic religious congregations) in cooperation with the Manav Rakt (human blood) Foundation led by Abu Hashim, a Muslim, and the Popular Blood Bank led by Dr Somesh.

Currently, Uttar Pradesh is one of the Indian states most affected by the surge in the pandemic that is bringing India to its knees. According to official data, the country hit another record yesterday in the terms of deaths: 1,761 people died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. But the figure could be higher. Many are accusing the Indian government of deliberately underestimating the number of deaths, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

The Reuters news agency has reported that in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, data from the largest COVID-only crematorium show twice as many bodies arriving than government figures.

Official figures do not take into account a second COVID-only crematorium in the city, or burials in the Muslim community, which makes up a quarter of the city’s population. 

Meanwhile, the number of cases continues to rise. Today the leader of India’s Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, announced that he too tested positive for the coronavirus.

“In Varanasi the situation is very critical,” said Father Anand Mathews, a member of the Indian Missionary Society and one of the promoters of the blood collection, speaking to AsiaNews. “There are no beds, in hospitals, no oxygen, no ventilators. People run around with patients pleading with doctors to admit them in hospitals. Private hospitals are being stormed.

“The two cremation sites on the banks of the Ganges are overcrowded. People are burning the bodies of the dead everywhere on the banks of the river. People are dying in the streets, in front of hospitals, next to vehicles or on stretchers. People are saying that they have never witnessed or imagined anything like this.”

Against this background, the first mobile camp for blood donation was set up yesterday in St Mary’s Convent, in a central district of the city. Bishop Eugene Joseph of Varanasi inaugurated it, noting how saving the lives of others is the most sacred and important responsibility of every citizen.

For Father Anand Mathew, this is a way to follow the example of Christ, who shed his blood on the cross for the salvation of humanity. The same love and compassion are necessary today for the victims of the pandemic.

“In Varanasi we have strong ties with people of all religions,” Bishop Joseph told AsiaNews. “Especially in times of crisis and serious need, we meet to serve the poor and the common good.

“Given the emergency we decided that it was urgent to mobilise to collect blood. This is the first camp but more will follow in the coming days at St Mary's Hospital, Vishwa Jyoti Gurukul, and Christ Nagar.

“Unfortunately, I could not donate blood on my doctor advice because I recently had typhus. I also contracted COVID-19 two months ago.”

“The donated blood will be useful for everyone,” said Father Mathew. “Blood donors will have the privilege of using their card to use the blood if they need it or refer others during emergencies. But the collection will be very beneficial for the poor who have no one to count on.”

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