Volunteers pitched in as number of cases went up in rural Karnataka

Challenges included lack of access to healthcare facilities or technology

The second wave was not only worse than the first in terms of sheer numbers, seriousness, and devastation, but also its reach beyond the big cities. Rural areas bore the brunt of what was termed a result of reverse migration

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With challenges unique to some areas – such as distance and access to healthcare or technological challenges, volunteer efforts were stepped up in many districts.

For instance, a group of young volunteers – Deshakkagi Navu (We for the Nation) – has been active in Tirthahalli taluk, Shivamogga district, providing basic needs for COVID-19 patients and those hit by the lockdown.

They began by providing assistance to patients at the taluk hospital, where many had no attendants. “We used to stay in the hospital and help patients. Many had no relatives to take them back to either to a scanning centre or a laboratory. Later, one of our members, Adarsha, gave his four-wheeler, which we have been using to drop patients home,” said Poornesh Kelakere, president of the organisation’s taluk unit.

The volunteers, using social media, had circulated their phone numbers in the taluk as a helpline and also to perform last rites. “So far, we have conducted the final rites of over 20 people, who died in the pandemic”, he added.

Prakashan M., State in-charge, HelpAge India, said the second wave particularly affected old-age homes and senior citizens.

“With relaxation only till 10 a.m., many seniors found it difficult to step out,” he said. The organisation deputed mobile health units offering consultation and treatment free of cost, along with awareness and transportation for vaccination.

Hassan Humanitarian Services started a COVID Care Centre at Sharief Charities Building in Pension Mohalla in Hassan mid-May.

So far, the centre has treated over 200 patients and 180 have returned after recovery. The rest are under treatment. The centre is handled by doctors and supporting staff throughout the day.

“We have a team of 60 volunteers who work in three shifts. We provide beds, oxygen, and medicines for free. Many organisations, including Red Cross, HRS Hospital in Bengaluru, and the district administration have helped us with the necessary medicines, oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, among other facilities,” said S. Pasha, a volunteer.

Sultan Ahmad, Director, Media and Governance, Gramvaani Community Media, a social tech company, said while there was a huge demand for oxygen and bed availability in urban areas, in rural areas, the problems were different: hospitals were far, many PHCs closed, district hospitals were stretched, and many were not able to get oxygen support. The organisation is helps coordinate between citizens and authorities and hospitals, said Mr. Ahmad.

He also added that due to non availability of smart phones or internet, vaccine enrollment has been difficult for many in the rural areas.

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