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Local woman relies on global network to get resources to India during COVID-19 crisis

May 10, 2021

Ambarien Alqadar(left) with her mother
Credit Ambarien Alqadar

With some hospitals at capacity with COVID-19 patients in India, a local woman is using the power of social media to get medical supplies to relatives and other people in need. 

Ambarien Alqadar, a Rochester Institute of Technology professor, said the pandemic has shown a breakdown in India’s public health system. Alqadar’s mother was turned away from several hospitals after she contracted the coronavirus in New Delhi last month. 

Alqadar says she was able to find her mother a temporary hospital bed after reaching out to some people on Twitter. 

"When your parents fall sick, even if you don’t live with them, you try to get them medical help," Alqadar said. “But in this case, there is no medical help.” 

The strain on the medical system and lack of resources have caused medical facilities in India to discharge patients when they become stable, even if they're still sick. 

Rochester resident Om Popli grew up in India. He said relatives continue to tell him about the limited resources.

“The worse situation is the lack of medical facilities, lack of oxygen, lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and other things," Popli said.

Alqadar said her mother’s condition has improved and she is being treated with oxygen therapy. She continues to receive care through a network of family members. 

Through her own process, Alqadar saw a network of strangers helping each other to get much-needed supplies to relatives and rural areas in India. 

“As long as you are able to find this one person through a whole channel of strangers on Twitter, on Facebook or WhatsApp, and that one person helps, things magically happen,” Alqadar said. 

There are many independent efforts to bring resources to India, according to Om, but he hopes to see a more collective approach internationally.

Alqadar said combating the pandemic is a global effort, and she continues to use her network to get medication and resources to India. 

“The virus doesn’t see borders, it travels. And you really have to ensure everybody is safe," said Alqadar. “It's not just about my safety and it’s not just about the safety of my mother, it’s about the safety of the broader community.”