There have been few uplifting moments these past few weeks, but when our first procurement of oxygen concentrators arrived in India in the end of April, the 13-member Swasth Alliance team and our band of 150+ volunteers felt a small glimmer of hope.
Oxygen is India’s most important crisis point right now. And we have no time to lose. Our live demand dashboard suggests that there’s a need for at least 360,000 oxygen concentrators across the country. And we have watched this number increase each day.
How are we trying to meet this need? Together with ACT Grants, we have procured 32,707 oxygen concentrators so far. It has been a mammoth effort to get here, but it’s only the first step of a long journey. Once procured, concentrators must reach the country, and then be transported to and installed in their target destinations. 4,137 of the procured concentrators have now arrived in India, and 2,764 have already been deployed. Covid-19 patients in 84 locations across 10 states are now one step closer to recovery.
An additional 1,373 concentrators are in transit, and we expect these to be deployed by May 10. You can follow their journey in our live deployment dashboard.
This process, for us, is not just about the logistics. In a fast-evolving crisis situation like ours, we’ve learned that it’s important to identify core principles that can guide our work. For us, these include ensuring equity, transparency, and impact.
- Equity: We use data-driven decision-making to identify areas and facilities most in need to allocate the limited oxygen concentrators.
- Transparency: We provide end-to-end visibility across procurement and deployment
- Impact: We ensure rapid deployment and utilisation, and track performance
Deployment begins with assessing where the need is greatest. In this ever-changing scenario, we keep track of the latest epidemiological data to determine which areas to prioritise. Within a state and district, we also try to verify facility-level demand through a thorough due diligence process, and make allocations based of the facilities’ need and track record.
But equity goes beyond simply going where the infection is most aggressive. We want to reach Indians across all kinds of real and imagined boundaries. We’re thus working to deploy concentrators with entities of all types, from NGOs to hospitals to governments, boosting coverage across the country. We have also created a buffer pool of concentrators. These concentrators are set aside for emergency requests by the government, but are deployed by us, to ensure that they reach the last mile, where they should be.
Rapidly deploying thousands of concentrators is a team effort, to say the least. We have joined forces with a host of funding, sourcing, logistics and fund administration partners, including ACT, British Asian Trust, Samhita, Temasek, Zomato, Paytm, Amazon, Delhivery, United Way of Bengaluru, iSPIRT, MyGov, and more, to get these concentrators out smoothly. We’re also lucky to be guided in this effort by a steering committee with public and private sector leaders who help ensure that our core principles are applied uniformly.
We are only just getting started. By May 11, we are expecting an additional 13,000 concentrators to arrive in India. Our ambition is to ultimately import and distribute 50,000 oxygen concentrators across the country through the month of May.
While the deployment of oxygen concentrators has been at the forefront of our work so far, there are three other key initiatives we’re working on:
- A crowd-sourced and verified search engine for medical resources and crisis line @ liferesources.in with support from partners such as CoronaSafe, Google, Facebook, and Myntra. Our search engine has been live from the early weeks of this second wave, and we’re glad to announce that verified leads on medical resources are now also available through a crisis helpline, expanding access to those who don’t have ready internet access or face literacy and/or accessibility barriers.
- A WhatsApp self-care chatbot which delivers local language content on management of mild cases of Covid-19 (interact with the bot here!), with support from Noora Health, Saathealth, and Harvard University.
- An initiative to amplify capacity of the rural health system. As new parts of the country to be impacted by the second wave in the coming weeks, rural India is particularly vulnerable and requires support to build both awareness and capacity, as well as access supplies. In collaboration with NGO partners such as the Rapid Rural Community Response to Covid-19 (RCRC), we are looking to provide medical devices such as oximeters, assist in training of medical and other personnel in key areas like triage, and build awareness around prevention and home-based treatment.
Funds from donors across the country, and across the world, have helped get here. We are humbled by the funds we have been able to raise so far. But in a crisis of this magnitude, we need all the support we can get to not only relieve our burden today but also make us more resilient for future crises. Here is how you can contribute.
Dr. Ajay Nair, CEO, Swasth Alliance