Dallas-Fort Worth couple take action to fight second wave of COVID-19 in poorly equipped rural India
Gowri Pujitha Appana and Kartheek Veeravalli believe they can save up to 4,000 lives this month.
The Euless couple have been working since early May to send medical supplies to rural villages in India to fight a second wave of COVID-19. The health care infrastructure is so lacking that families have resorted to to abandon corpses of loved ones who died along the banks of the rivers.
“It’s causing a lot of havoc,” Appana said.
Appana and Veeravalli helped raise $ 350,000 for a small local organization based in India, the AIR Foundation, tapping into their own personal networks in the United States and India. With this funding, the foundation has already sent hundreds of medical devices, including oxygen concentrators, BiPap machines that help push air through the lungs, oxygen cylinders, and regulators to 15 rural areas in the country. country.
Appana and Veeravalli want to do more.
The foundation the couple work with, the AIR Foundation, wants to raise $ 450,000 by June 10 for their next deployment of medical resources, which they say could provide oxygen and life-saving breathing apparatus to 4,000 Indians. with COVID-19.
The United States is seeing a drop in COVID-19 infections to around 17,000 cases on average per week, but India is still recording more than 175,000 new cases per week on average.
Much of the aid that was sent to India went to urban centers rather than rural areas, Appana said. Rural India accounts for more than 65% of the country’s population but has only 30% of the country’s hospital beds, according to the couple.
The rural Indian hometown of Appana in the state of Andhra Pradesh has a population of around 30,000 and did not have a single tank of oxygen for COVID patients. When one of his uncles fell ill with the virus in August and his oxygen levels dropped dangerously, the family spent eight hours driving between towns, calling hospitals and trying to find him a bed with enough oxygen.
Like too many others, Appana’s uncle did not survive.
“We have extended family WhatsApp groups, and almost every week we hear about a death,” Veeravalli said. “It was so scary to even take a call from your parents because you were afraid it was some kind of bad news.”
The couple had donated to relief organizations, but when the second wave of COVID hit the country, it became clear how contagious and deadly the new variants were. And the rural Indian towns were just as woefully ill-prepared as the first time.
Appana and Veeravalli, who worked for years in startups and the financial services industry at D-FW, wanted to get more involved so they could actually see the impact themselves.
“There was a time when I wasn’t taking action; I was in a hole of grief, ”said Appana. “Then the second wave started and my other uncle passed away in April. If two people from the same family have died, it means that the situation on the ground is really bad. “
After independently collecting tens of thousands of donations, the couple teamed up with a dozen other alumni of India’s most prestigious universities to help the AIR Foundation, which launched on May 10. The foundation works closely with other non-governmental organizations in India as well as at the local level. Governments.
The D-FW couple have devoted more than 50 hours per week to the effort since it launched in early May, they said.
Blockages in India have made remote assistance logistically difficult, but overseas field teams are helping the foundation get the equipment to health centers. The AIR Foundation’s expertise lies in delivering aid quickly – the couple helped send the foundation’s first wave of resources in just two weeks, they said.
A study published in November and highlighted by the US National Institutes of Health, calls adequate and affordable health care in rural India a “mirage”.
The need is so great that Appana describes her and her husband’s initiative with the AIR Foundation as an “obsession” that she cannot shake off.
“I’m like ‘OK, maybe if I worked that extra hour I would have saved someone else. I might have won $ 1,000 more in donations that would have helped one more person.
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
How to help
To donate, visit AIRFoundation.in and go to the organization fundraiser hosted by Give India.