Going Digital can Save Nepal from Covid Catastrophe: Here’s How
Disclaimer: The opinion is of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of NIPoRe at an appropriate place.
– Anushruti Adhikari
While the new strain of Coronavirus in India was already becoming a heart-wrenching struggle even for the onlookers, stories of increasing Covid infections and deaths, people’s fight for treatment and supplies in the hospital along with toxic black marketing of health essentials have also become the general headlines of Nepal. Communities from across the country are becoming increasingly active in circulating information while placing notices for oxygen or hospital bed requests online. I have become used to the hourly updates of friends who are constantly doing so through whichever platform they can from Whatsapp to Instagram, when seeking physical assistance is impossible.
Taking lessons from India’s current pandemic scenario, Nepal knows better than to sit back and assume that the worst will soon be behind us. Local lockdowns have begun, and while our previous concerns were mostly around economic recovery, the same fear is now layered with the fact that the new strain can be life-threatening at a greater magnitude.
A good number of Nepalis across the country are already finding themselves on either side of request for oxygen cylinders or hospital beds. We may, like our friends in India, have been forced to post Covid information unconventionally on platforms that are used for entertainment purposes rather than life-or-death situations. But since we are a year deep into the pandemic, news and requests should not just be bursting from anywhere that is possible. Reaching out to people virtually is very much possible but there are more systematic and organized ways of doing this, ways that can increase chances of requests being heard and fulfilled.
India’s innovative startups have been doing what they can in response to the frightening spikes in the recent covid cases. From NGOs like Dhoondh which connects blood plasma donors to receivers, to HelpNow, an emergency ambulance service company, the local response has been immensely active which leaves the question: what should Nepal be doing then? Nepal has a cluster of telemedicine companies along with virtual blood banks, who were more or less ready for a crisis even before the pandemic. It is now time to expand these minimum investments and attention towards the social-media drive health tech industry.
These technologies are essential for citizens actively volunteering to fight against Covid, while guiding others who may want to provide help in any way possible from a safe distance. Services can range all the way from securely circulating information on local Covid situations, specific plasma donors, ambulances, oxygen availability, patients in dire need of medications and cash. Funds essential for paying medical bills for the low and low middle-income population can be collected privately and transparently through virtual drives, as similar initiatives have been largely successful in India. These media circles can even poke on the possible insufficiencies that may be clearly visible in treatment facilities.
Finally, most countries in the world are facilitating online Covid Vaccine appointments. As a result of smooth and systematic resource management through virtual platforms citizens have now got their required jabs. As a result, countries like the United States have officially removed the public mask mandate for them. But in the middle of the pandemic, most of us have not gotten even the first dose. Thus, while we may be technically unprepared for the pandemic, we are even less prepared for a post-pandemic situation, an irony that, while comical, cannot be laughed at anymore.