Medical facilities in hard-hit Mumbai, including St. George Hospital, receive first shipment of protective barrier gowns. Credit International Relief Teams

San Diego-based International Relief Teams Friday delivered its first air shipment of personal protective equipment to India, intended to protect health workers overwhelmed by record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country.

This initial shipment, made in collaboration with nonprofit partners MAP International and AirLink, consisted of 60,000 protective barrier gowns and will be distributed to medical facilities in hard-hit Mumbai, including St. George Hospital. Future shipments will also include gloves, masks and isolation suits.

“Health workers in India are on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Barry La Forgia, International Relief Teams’ executive director. “They urgently need PPE to protect themselves as they provide critical medical assistance to their COVID-19 patients.”

India is struggling to deal with an unprecedented COVID-19 surge.

There are more than 24 million confirmed cases in India and 261,969 deaths. Worse still, experts believe this accounts for just 3% of the cases. The World Health Organization reports that India accounts for 40% of global cases.

International Relief Teams is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization with the mission of alleviating the “suffering caused by poverty and disaster around the globe, from the forgotten corners of the world to right here at home, by sending volunteer teams, relief supplies and other assistance to improve the lives of those who suffer most,” a statement from the organization says.

Since La Forgia founded Southwest Medical Teams in 1988 — renaming it International Relief Teams in 1996 — it has deployed more than 7,500 volunteers and provided $540 million in food, medicines, relief supplies and volunteers services  to families in need in 70 countries worldwide.

More information on the organization and how to donate can be found at www.irteams.org.

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