J&K takes to twitter to help pandemic hit population

Harry Walia. Updated: 5/1/2021 10:54:33 AM Front Page

Jammu: Amid Jammu and Kashmir’s increasingly deepening coronavirus crisis, its people are taking to twitter to seek as well as offer help for the pandemic hit population.
“Learning from the heartbreaking upheaval in Delhi, where people have had to desperately bypass conventional communication channels to crowdsource help through Twitter and other social media platforms for oxygen, plasma, hospital beds, ventilators, medicines, and other requirements for COVID19 treatment, J&K’s young, apprehending similar situation for their own region and people, have stepped up early to save lives,” says Ayushman Koul, a Jammu based engineering student and #SOSJK volunteer.
He adds, “On 21 April, 2021, renowned cricketer Mithun Manhas sought help on Twitter for his grandfather in Jammu, who was COVID19 positive and required oxygen. Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS, intervened and the matter got resolved. That is when we first felt the need to bring to the fore SOS requests from across J&K. Rising cases with each passing day and limited resources impelled it further.”
Mohit Bhan, another #SOSJK volunteer, says, “Started more than a week ago, the hashtag #SOSJK has gained quite a lot of traction. People from different walks of life, including activists, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, doctors, students, and so on, are now amplifying the SOS requests, and sharing information or resources using this hashtag. To further smoothen the process, we rolled out a twitter account @jkcovid2021.”
This, apolitical group of volunteers, is working to collate and regularly update the database of patients, oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, remdesivir, blood donors, plasma donors, chemists, ambulances, retailers, distributors, etc. so that help can be provided in time. From an initial team of handful, it has grown to include over hundred volunteers from almost every district of J&K.
For streamlining the process, different work is delegated to volunteers, while around eight are at the helm of affairs. The team filters and verify requests before going for amplification.
Until today, they have catered to nearly 100 requests. Most of the SOS requests received are from Kashmir, given the overwhelming number of cases and probably, twitter users there. Requests have also come from people of J&K residing in Delhi-NCR.
Mohit asserts, “The group is acting as a buffer between those in need or those having resources and those in the administration. We are mobilizing all kinds of resources, creating awareness regarding the safety measures, resource availability, etc. monitoring the ground situation, sharing real time requests with the concerned to act and resolve, providing suggestions to officials as per the feedback from people, getting more and more people involved so as to cover even the farthest areas of UT.”
He adds, “We are glad to be able to help atleast some percentage of the population, if not all. In coming days, we might also launch a website or bot for the same to lessen the manual workload.”
What does one have to do in order to post a SOS request so that it gets noticed?
Ayushman tells, “Anyone in distress has to simply mention Patient Name, Age, Location/Hospital Address, Vitals, Covid report, Requirement, Contact Details, and Attendant Name in their message. The same goes for a tweet, but one can use the hashtag #SOSJK, and tag @jkcovid2021 or anyone of our volunteers. Once resolved, we notify it.”
He shares, “People are mostly requesting for oxygen cylinders or concentrators. For instance, recently we got a request at midnight from Jammu. We were able to put him in touch with a distributor and he had an oxygen cylinder within 40 minutes. Yesterday, we received a request for oncologist consultation in and around Srinagar. We connected the person with Dr Sameer Kaul.”
Mohit notes, “There are definitely good victories. However, at times, one feels helpless when despite putting in all the efforts a patient does not get a bed for three days, or a patient dies for want of oxygen.”
Witnessing the unprecedented escalation in cases, which might lead to healthcare system buckling under its weight in coming days, they are also working to augment the resources and efforts.
“We all should hope and pray, the situation remains under control and at the same time, be prepared for the worse,” Mohit says.

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