Over the past few weeks, as India got hit by the second wave and our health infrastructure started collapsing, the youth stepped up to extend help on social media by finding and verifying leads for available hospital beds, oxygen and other medical supplies.
Among thousands across India putting in their time and energy are three second-year students of Delhi University – Arpita Chowdhury, Shivani Singhal and Aarushi Raj. Together, they started an online campaign called #LetsFightCovidTogether wherein an online database of all Covid-related resources such as oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, ventilators, online resources, tiffin services, and medicines are routinely verified and updated.
In addition, they have also put together various precautionary measures that should be kept in mind while purchasing these resources in order to protect people from the increasing number of frauds in the country.
“While I was part of a support group, formed by some people from my college, I realised that a lot of people were asking for leads. However, most of the information that they passed on was neither authentic nor organised. This made me wonder, what can we, as students, do? This motivated me to start a campaign that would provide people with verified, updated and authentic leads,” says Chowdhury.
On April 21, 2021, Chowdhury started by collecting authentic and useful data including the state helpline numbers issued by the government of India, authorised websites and so on, in an excel sheet and made it available to people on the internet using #LetsFightCovidTogether.
“Initially, I was working alone, from collecting information to verifying their sources and updating the excel sheet – all by myself. But when more and more information started coming in, it started becoming too overwhelming for me which is when I reached out to Shivani and Aarushi and gladly they agreed to join in,” says Chowdhury.
Every day, they collect about 100 leads from various social media accounts that are working for Covid relief. Thereafter they divide the list among themselves, verify the sources and update them on the excel sheet. “We put up stories, reels, campaign posters etc on our social media channels, Facebook/WhatsApp groups to notify people that we have updated the excel sheet,” she said.
However, it wasn’t easy to gain people’s trust. “People hesitate to rely on you when you’re a student. But in the end, it comes down to the youth of the country to help people on the ground. So, gradually when more and more people started reaching out, we felt confident and motivated to continue doing what we are doing,” she said.
According to Chowdhury, not only Indians, but a lot of people living abroad also reached out to them in order to extend their help to their loved ones and others living in India. “We were contacted by someone from the US who wanted to donate an oxygen concentrator but he wasn’t able to due to import issues for which he required our help – he wanted to donate some money for us to be able to buy an oxygen concentrator from an authentic source and give it to the person in need,” she said.
Like everyone else, they aren’t immune to the emotional hardship that came with the project. “We are not professionals and no matter how hard we try not to, we end up getting attached to the patients. So, losing them drains us emotionally and takes a toll on mental health.”
However, she added, even though a few patients that they were trying to help died due to the crunch of resources, they are glad to have been able to help those they have. “Even if I am able to save one person, I would consider all our work absolutely worth it.”
The second wave was predicted well in advance by the doctors as well as by the scientists, however, it is the lack of preparedness on the part of the government what caused the mass deaths in the country, Chowdhury said.
“I wouldn’t say that the resources were not there, but it was because of the lack of proper allocation, distribution, planning that we lost so many lives. If the authorities would have planned well in advance, this kind of chaos would have been avoided. However, I hope we’re better prepared for what is to come in the future,” she says.
Featured image (L-R) – Team #LetsFightCovidTogether (Shivani Singhal, Arpita Chowdhury and Aarushi Raj)
All images have been provided by Arpita Chowdhury.