- Dipen and his team created a database of information useful for patients
- His online initiative ‘Covid Resources’ has helped thousands of people
- During the pandemic, we saw young people rise to the challenge: UNICEF
New Delhi: The second wave of COVID-19 in India which saw an alarming surge of coronavirus infection, led to a collapse of the healthcare system in many places and unleashed unprecedented devastation across the country. From a chronic shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supply to lack of medicines, medical facilities and timely treatment. This was also evident in the desperate cries for help on social media platforms. It was during this period that Dipen Gadhiya, 23-year-old Political Science student and social activist from Gujarat’s Junagadh began verifying the information floating on social media to help people access valid and verified information quickly and then started a website for providing a real-time database of medical resource suppliers and hospital facilities.
While talking to NDTV about his work during the pandemic, Dipen recalled an incident when his friend urgently required oxygen for her grandparents. He forwarded her message to his friends and some of the WhatsApp groups that he was part of. He received a lot of phone numbers of suppliers but he failed to arrange oxygen in time and his friend lost both of her grandparents.
It happened due to the time we lost calling up unverified numbers. We lost precious time. Even though the medical infrastructure of our city was under a lot of pressure, I believe we could have saved my friend’s grandparents if we had correct information about the supplier who had the oxygen available at that time. There was a huge lack of medical oxygen in our city. The same evening, I got to know that in our city, 30 people died of Covid and half of them could not survive due to the lack of oxygen. This was a hard-hitting moment for me that spurred me to do something so that people in need of oxygen and get it before it gets too late.
He further said that being a social activist he is a part of many initiatives and groups on social media and WhatsApp. Dipen is also the founder of a non-governmental organisation Sensizens Trust – Sensible Citizens that works on creating awareness about the rights and duties of citizens and a part of YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India, UNICEF)’s #YoungWarrior movement and YuWaah’s National Young People’s Action Team (NYPAT) that was launched in May 2021 amidst the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This helped him create a team of 15 volunteers who were willing to spend time on making calls and visiting vendors of oxygen.
We named our group as ‘Covid Junagadh’. We verified sources and gave more updated and correct information to people. We connected more people on WhatsApp through various groups for spreading the verified information. All the queries that we were getting on through social media, we were posting IT on our group and responding with verified information, he said.
Within three days, the group started receiving an overwhelming number of queries that prompted Dipen to create a web link on Linktree, an application that creates a landing page to hosts multiple links. The App helped the group to provide information in an organized manner under different tabs for hospital beds, ICU (Intensive Care unit) beds, oxygen, essential medicines, ventilators and others. In order to present the real-time database that they were generating in a more user-friendly way, they created a website called ‘Covid Help, Junagadh’ with the help of a website developer who offered to provide his services free of cost for the cause. Within a week, the website reached over 70,000 visitors.
I remember, a couple from Jaipur who was visiting a family member in Junagadh got stuck here due to the lockdown and then got severe Covid infection. We arranged plasma for them in no time after they recovered soon and went back. A young girl urgently required oxygen at 2 am. While it was a challenging time for the family, our network of volunteers arranged it promptly. These were very touching moments for us. Some of the recovered patients told us that their doctors said that timely support helped in saving their lives. Such experiences boosted our morale and kept us motivated.
But the road was not easy for Dipen and his group of volunteers, they faced many challenges in their fight against Covid.
During the second wave, I think each person was under stress, especially those who directly impacted by Covid- patients, their families, doctors, hospital staff, chemists, suppliers of essential medical items. Even most of us were affected by the pandemic on one way or another. But, our job was to make calls and visit sources to know the status of the vital medical resources and update the database at least 4-5 times in a day because at that time, the caseload was very high and so the status of availability of beds, oxygen and other things were changing faster and the information was getting obsolete in just a few hours. So, the biggest problem we faced initially was to take the suppliers of important resources in confidence. They used to get very rude with us, which is understandable considering the kind of pressure they were during the devastating second wave. But our passion had more influence on us than our ego. So, we dealt with all the bad calls very patiently. Soon our group started getting recognition in our small town and things started getting easier for us. We also reached out to our local MLAs for support in spreading information. In terms of finance, we did not face any challenge as all we needed was a phone, laptop and internet connection.
Along with leading a youth campaign, Dipen also helped various NGOs and corporates conduct drives for distribution of food and immunity booster kits for the poor and needy who were in the home isolation.
Now Dipen and his group raise awareness about Covid and vaccination by organising online discussions with experts on their social media platforms. Dipen signed off saying,
The only way to beat the two enemies- pandemic and misinformation is to aggressively fight back. With the learnings, experience and contacts made during the second wave, we are ready for the challenges that the future waves might throw at us as far as verifying sources and providing real-time information in Junagadh is concerned.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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