Who: Hemkunt Foundation
What: Distributed free medical oxygen amid the oxygen shortage during the second COVID wave
Why: For distributing oxygen to people during the second COVID wave when the country faced a massive oxygen shortage
In the months of April and May, India was hit severely by a deadly second wave of COVID-19 in which lakhs of cases were reported each day while thousands perished. Some called it the worst tragedy that India faced since partition (1947). One of the sights that shook the nation to its core was of people scrambling for oxygen cylinders. As cases soared, hospitals ran out of medical oxygen. Desperate SOS calls were made, while the patients’ families ran from post to pillars to secure medical oxygen. During those grim hours, many people and organisations came out to help those in need. One such organisation was the Gurugram-based Hemkunt Foundation, whose volunteers worked round the clock to secure and distribute oxygen cylinders to the needy not just across 21 Indian cities.
For its tremendous work during the COVID pandemic, Onlymyhealth has nominated the Hemkunt Foundation for its Healthcare Heroes Awards 2022. The foundation is nominated in the ‘Oxygen Warrior’ category. This is its story:
Secured Oxygen Not Just Domestically But Internationally Too
In an interview with Onlymyhealth, when Harteerath Singh, Director of the Hemkunt Foundation, was asked about how they were able to secure oxygen during the massive shortage, he said, it was “quite difficult.” “But, the teams were working round the clock to secure oxygen from wherever we could, be it south India, Hong Kong, China, or Iraq,” he said.
And for distribution, the foundation set up 25 micro oxygen centers, had a facility in Gurugram that accommodated around 500 people, and also delivered it at home for the elderly who didn’t have families to take care of them. So distribution was largely done through door-step delivery, drive-throughs and oxygen centres, Singh said.
There Were Times When We Didn’t Have Oxygen To Provide: Harteerath Singh
During that time, the whole country witnessed a massive shortage of medical oxygen, and the Hemkunt Foundation was no exception. “There were a lot of times when we didn’t have oxygen to provide,” Singh said. “Our trucks were getting delayed, there were times our consignment was stopped at the airport as custom takes a lot of time,” Singh said, adding that at times things got delayed by five to six hours as families waited as they had no option.
At times like these of such scarcity, how they decided whom to help, was the next question Singh was asked. “It’s all about prioritising,” came a prompt reply. The foundation had a set standard that those with oxygen levels below 80 would be helped first. “The government centres were catering to those with oxygen levels above 80,” he said, adding, “so we thought we would help those who were not getting help from anywhere.”
Initiatives Other Than Oxygen Supply During COVID Times
Not just providing oxygen, but the Hemkunt Foundation took other initiatives too during the COVID outbreak, Singh said. These include free RT-PCR testing, free ambulance service, free medicines, free ration, 24/7 help, and providing mental health support as many dealt with depression. According to the Hemkunt Foundation, they helped about 20 lakh people across 21 states. On how a Gurugram-based organisation was able to supply oxygen cylinders to 21 states, Singh said, it already had volunteers there, who had working during times of need, such as the 2018 Kerala flood, 2013 Uttarakhand tragedy. So, the need here was to just mobilise them.
It was not just these Indian states that the organisation supplied oxygen to. When Indonesia faced a similar oxygen shortage in July, 2021, Hemkunt Foundation reached out to the country’s embassy in New Delhi, and then, supplied it there as well.
“For us, it’s all about making an impact, even if it’s on a single life,” Singh said. “And it is possible with everyone’s love and support,” he said, adding, “it’s what keeps us going.”
We at Onlymyhealth give a big shoutout to the Hemkunt Foundation for its service to the people during the grim months of the COVID wave in India.