Pic: IIITH website
Pic: IIITH website

IIIT-H alumni war room comes to rescue of COVID-hit families during the second wave of the pandemic

The COVID War Room (CWR) was set up in response to a deluge of appeals for crucial assistance for COVID patients during the second wave in April-May

The COVID war room comprising of IIIT-Hyderabad alumni and students, has saved many precious lives during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID War Room (CWR) was set up in response to a deluge of appeals for crucial assistance for COVID patients during the second wave in April-May.

The team comprising alumni and students of International Institute of Information Technology-Hyderabad (IIIT-H) has so far resolved 1,107 requests and processed over Rs 40 lakh in financial aid.

CWR founder Sriharsha Karamchati created a technical eco-system of support through a volunteer army and crowd-sourced data and funding. "Our basic purpose is to take the mental load off the patient's attendant and give him/her precious time with the patient, while we provide remote assistance and hand-holding till the problem is resolved," he said.

The CWR processes the requests for hospital beds, ventilators and oxygen support devices, medicines or blood, through its extensive data base of resources and verifies its availability. The verified information is then relayed back to the attendant for immediate action.

"We take the request, calm the attendant down and ask them to spend time with the patient. Once we source the request, we verify the details, set up the bed, ambulance or oxygen support and organize crowd-funding, if the person is unable to pay, as per the need," explained Sriharsha.

IIITH's alumni, IT whiz-kids, working professionals, start-up founders and college students came together to work as a team. The group also has doctors, IIITH engineers, parents who are nodal officers, NGO heads, hospital owners and IAS officers.

The backend processes were conceptualized and designed by core team member Mohit Jain, IIITH alumnus and Sudhir Yarram, a PhD scholar working in the computer vision space. "We used a Ziffy platform to set up the helpline," informed IIITH alumnus Anupriya Inumella of Microsoft, who put together the call center to process requests from across the nation.

Sriharsha Karamchati, co- founder of the start-up Questbook, created a website called Covid.questbook.app which offered creative services in return for monetary donations for any COVID cause. He offered to make an ad for a company if it donates Rs 50,000 for any COVID cause. This enabled Rs 60 lakh worth of donations till date.

Sriharsha through his Twitter-Instagram posts mobilised Rs 6 lakh for a daughter who had lost her mother to COVID and needed to raise 1.5 lakhs a day for her critically ill father. 'Donate 350 rupees that you would spend on a Swiggy meal' was an Insta post that touched hearts.

He then reached out to his close friends and put his request for volunteers to join him, in the IIITH Life Facebook page. The next day he had 250 volunteers from IIITH students and alumni. They converted the forum into a high tech platform overnight, creating slack groups, building slack bots and automating several processes.

The core 10-member team includes Goodclap, the fund-raising venture who were one of the first members on the CWR team. The verification of resources is undertaken by the parents of volunteers, 40+ age group members who bring their time-tested people-skills to create connections with reliable sources in different domains.

The team created a Data Studio where people can actually see where the funds go. "We have donated Rs 5.5 lakh towards setting up of 45 oxygen beds and 15 ICU beds in Kukatpally," said Anupriya Inumella. In Agra, 350 ration kits were distributed among the rickshawallah families who had lost their main breadwinner. The CWR has raised an equivalent of Rs 60 lakh and bought 20 oxygen concentrators from Australia, now being leased as a free service.

The call center processed patient requests from cities like Ajmer, Bhopal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Bangalore, Hyderabad and districts within Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. "We had 2,000 requests of which 1,700 have been processed with a 60 per cent success rate", said Anupriya.

Anyone who needs help can reach out to the COVID War Room Helpline 6304296587 or DM their COVID-related requests to the Instagram handle https://www.instagram.com/sriharshakaramchati/ or tag the Twitter handle https://twitter.com/HarshaKaramchat