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Social media as ‘Godsend’: In India, seek help to get results

New Delhi-Rajni Gill woke up with a mild fever in mid-April, the first warning she had COVID-19 within days, she was suffocated and almost unconscious in the hospital.

Desperate to arrange plasma therapy for Ms Gill, a gynecologist in Noida, her family calls the doctors all the friends they think will help. Her sister then posted a plea on Facebook: “I am looking for a plasma donor to my sister who was hospitalized in Noida. She is a positive person and is 43 years old. “

The message was swiftly expanded on Twitter, circulating across the phone of nearby Delhi-based opposition politician Srinivas BV, who recently received a plasma for college students. He assigned volunteer donors to rush to the blood bank for Ms. Gill.

“Administration and systems have collapsed,” said Srinivas. “I have never seen so many people die at the same time.”

“My performance and my team might have dropped into the ocean – but it still fell,” he said.

With India’s healthcare system overwhelmed by India’s unprecedented coronavirus, which brings in 400,000 new cases and thousands of deaths each day, relatives and friends of the dead end Wang turned to the use of SOS messaging on social media. And many calls were received

Some people need medical oxygen, which is hardly available in the capital Delhi, others are on the hunt for high-priced drugs on the black market or for an extremely rare ventilator.

The plea goes to tech-savvy engineers, lawyers, workers, NGOs, politicians, doctors and even tuk-tuk drivers who mobilize people online to help the sick, some hundreds of miles away. Overall, they have created a grassroots network that is stepping in at a point where state and national governments are failing.

It’s a role that Sri Niwas, 38, played before during the crisis.

As chairman of the opposition youth group of the Indian National Congress, he has made support after natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods. He works to find textbooks for disadvantaged children and medicine for people who can’t afford it.

Earlier this year, when the first outbreak struck and India was blocked, Srivas, a young zinc volunteer across the country, distributed food to stranded migrants, along with more than 10 million face masks, he is now team leader. 1,000 people, including 100 in Delhi, the epicenter of the current outbreak.

“I grew up following the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,” said Srivas, who dreamed of becoming a cricketer before going into politics. “I can’t believe I came here today and try to help so many people. ”

Cries for help on Twitter and Facebook began to escalate “like wildfire” earlier this month, Srinivas said. He created the #SOSIYC hashtag for people to connect with his organization, the Indian Youth Council.

His team advertises plasma donors online and has 5,000 people registered.He also asks psychologists to advise donors about the four-hour procedure.

India’s loose online help network relies on tools and techniques commonly used in other forms of marketing and messaging on social media. Families tag people with a high number of followers or with specific skills that might expand their message, while volunteer organizers use keywords to filter out large requests.

Abhishek Murarka, who works in finance in Mumbai, decided he needed to do more than just retweet the message. He began searching for the words “Confirm”, “Confirm” and “OK” on Twitter to track specific leads related to COVID devices. He posted an 84-second video explaining his technique so others can use it.

Praveen Mishra, 20, hundreds of miles away, a start-up in the southern city of Bangalore, studies Mr Murarka’s videos and uses his own filters to find beds, oxygen and drugs. He was able to find some medicines for a Delhi patient after confirming that they were available in Hyderabad.

“At first I was so scared, there were too many cases, and I couldn’t help it out,” said Mishra. “Now I call 20 prospects a day and confirm their needs.”

Some of them are entering information sources around the world. Nikhil Jois, a technology executive in Bangalore and his own team, examines a charity that provides oxygen, food and sanitary pads. He divided his list into just over ten organizations, some of which accept international donations.

His team then asked several Indian companies to link to their in-app or website listings. And he began emailing top-selling executives, investors and writers in the US asking them to deliver.

“The most beautiful part of social media is that you trust strangers,” said Jois.

Of course, that’s not always a good idea. Suspicious accounts present low-priced or inflated merchandise to the desperate, and the merchandise opportunities can evaporate quickly. And trolls tend to hate the vulnerable.

But when India is in crisis and traveling is not a safe option, social media is the only way for some to find help.

Aditya Jain, who is based in Delhi, recently issued a plea that went viral on Twitter.He felt helpless as his elderly aunt and uncle, about 130 miles away in Agra, struggled during a siege of siege. There

His aunt had spinal disease, his uncle with diabetes had to dialysis every week. Unable to go out, they only eat meals a day. They can’t take care of themselves and sometimes they can’t go to the bathroom.

Through LinkedIn, he found an organization that values ​​the elderly. He filled out a form giving the place name and other information. The next morning, a volunteer showed up at his doorstep with breakfast and an adult diaper.

“Social media is heaven for us,” said emotional Shane, who lost his other relatives to Covid.

Srivas said he receives at least 10,000 messages on Twitter every day and follows them all for every 100 requests, he said, saying that he can usually help 30 to 40 people due to a shortage.

Even foreign diplomats in Delhi reached out to his organization for help. On Sunday, the New Zealand High Commission tagged India’s youth council on Twitter to appeal the oxygen tanks. As the group is part of the political opposition, it has drawn a lot of intense criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the outbreak (the Commission said their appeal “was not the case”. “Misinterpret for which we apologize”)

Khun Si Niwas volunteers use direct messaging to collect information about those in need, then categorize them by risk profile. They work with people on the ground to set up hospital beds and donate plasma for the most serious cases.Others will contact a doctor who can offer remote counseling.

Often times, system defects are too many to be overcome.

Mahua Ray Chaudhuri frantically tags Ms Srinivas looking for oxygen for his sick father. His team found some But still not enough: no ICU beds are available.

“At least I was able to get him oxygen and he was suffocated,” Chaduri said over the phone, “the help of a stranger on Twitter was like a balm for our busy minds and spirits. ”

But Khun Srivas team can take it. Plasma for you Gill, the gynecologist, just in time. She is now recuperating in a hospital on the outskirts of Delhi.

“I felt emotionally involved,” she said. “Out of such a horrible time, I knew I had generously received help from a stranger.”

Recently, she called Khun Si Niwas to thank him, “Although I have never met her. But it was a humbling experience hearing her voice, ”he said.“ I was so relieved that you did it. ”

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