COVID-19 | Kashmir's volunteers risking lives to save people

Health workers during a testing drive at railway station in Jammu. [File: Mir Imran/ GK]

A few days back volunteers of Social Reforms Organiasation (SRO Kashmir) received a distress call from a COVID-19 patient whose condition was deteriorating.

The volunteers rushed to help and gave oxygen support to the elderly patient until he was stabilised.

“The entire four-member family was COVID-19 positive and three of them were hospitalised. The only patient who was not hospitalised was a 65-year-old patient. But later his symptoms appeared and worsened. He called on our toll-free number. We provided him with oxygen support and helped with doctor consultation and food till he recovered. These are the kind of cases that we receive on a daily basis since the surge is alarming,” said Muhammad Afaaq Sayeed who heads the Oxygen Wing of SRO-Kashmir.

He along with other volunteers are putting their lives on the line while addressing the distress calls for help from various families.

In addition to the tireless work that health workers in Kashmir are doing while dealing with an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients on a daily basis, there are multiple NGOs driven by these volunteers who are helping in the fight against coronavirus.

Like SRO Kashmir another NGO Help Poor Voluntary Trust (HPVT) is ferrying COVID-19 patients between hospitals and home.

Their volunteers are also helping in stabilising the patients who could be managed at home.

Chairman of the HPVT, Farooq Ahmad Bhat said that from ferrying patients to supplying essentials like oxygen and medicine, his volunteers were working round the clock to help those in need.

“We have been doing health-related service for years but since the surge in COVID and given the grim situation, all the focus have been on COVID-19 related service,” he said.

Mehrajuddin Sofi, a senior volunteer working at HPTV said that they were always wearing protective gear and abiding by the SOPs.

However, he said that while being around the COVID-19 positive patients, every volunteer had an increased risk of contracting the virus.

“Hospitals are doing tireless work and there is a huge pressure of COVID-19 patients on the hospitals. If we can do our bit by managing the manageable patients at home, by providing medicine and ambulance service, it in-turn helps reduce the pressure on the hospitals. Only yesterday, we received a distress call from an elderly patient whose oxygen saturation had dropped. After consulting the doctor we could manage him at his home and he stabilised. In case the patient is critical we ferry them on ambulances equipped with oxygen supply,” Sofi said.

These volunteers are also assisting the people to take the bodies of COVID-19 patients for burial and assist in burial.

In the COVID-19 wave in year, 2020 SRO-Kashmir also arranged the burial for three non-locals.

This year also they are providing help for burials whenever asked and they have identified a graveyard in case some non-local or unclaimed body needs to be buried.

The volunteers of these NGOs and scores of others in Kashmir are putting their lives at risk while doing their bit to help in the COVID-19 fight.

“We know that there is a growing risk. On weekly basis, our volunteers undergo a COVID-19 test to make sure that they have not contracted the virus and if they have, they could be treated,” said another volunteer from SRO Kashmir adding that they had also established a cell to help in burials.

Many of these organisations have established helpline numbers, special cells and maintained social media presence to reach out to the people.

NGOs like HPVT and SRO Kashmir receive between 20 and 80 calls each on a daily basis and they said that the calls for help were growing.