SEATTLE, Washington — Bengaluru, the capital city of India’s southern Karnataka state, is combatting the socio-economic and health effects of COVID-19 like the rest of the world. On September 23, Karnataka saw 6,997 new COVID-19 cases, making the state’s total active cases sit at 94,652. From the new cases, Bengaluru accounts for 3,457 cases and 23 deaths. There are currently more than 200 containment zones in the city, which are likely to increase to maintain rising cases.
Bengaluru—previously known as Bangalore—is known as the “Silicon Valley of India” with its growing IT footprint and startup companies. Before the pandemic, the city was one of India’s most progressive cities, developing much faster than most. With a population of 10 million, it was also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Although, the city is not without it’s less fortunate. However, due to the progressiveness of the city, Bengaluru’s impoverished communities are often overlooked.
The Bangalore Kidney Foundation
The Bangalore Kidney Foundation, or BKF, has been around for 41 years, helping those who need dialysis care. The organization is one of the largest dialysis centers in India. It serves more than 300 dialysis patients, with “most being daily wage workers or citizens below the poverty line.” Moreover, the foundation treats an average of 120 to 130 patients daily.
Once Bengaluru went into lockdown due to the pandemic, the BKF saw a dip in patients by 40%. This significant drop in patients put the foundation into high gear, not to keep them afloat but to keep those who need renal care and dialysis alive.
The BKF made it their goal to support patients struggling to afford their renal care during the pandemic, especially underprivileged patients. To ensure every patient can receive their three dialysis sessions per week, the foundation set up a multi-system plan to cover the five primary obstacles their patients would have to overcome: fear of exposure, access to transportation, lack of nutritional foods, lack of supplements and financial instability.
BKF’s 5 Pronged-Plan
- Overcoming Fear. It is not the virus alone that is killing the city’s people. It is fear. The fear of quarantine and economic downfall leads to late diagnoses from COVID-19 patients as they do not want to believe they have the virus. This stigma around being sick is also causing healthy people to fear going outside as they do not know who is ill and who is not. So, the first thing the foundation did was deal with the issue of fear. It realized that patients would not visit unless they fully trusted the business’s cleanliness and staff. Thus, the foundation made sure all of its patients and workers wore PPE during their sessions. This way, each patient and worker could feel safe when at the building. They also shuffled their staff, so workers most prone to the virus were not exposed.
- Accessing Transportation. Moreover, due to public transportation no longer being as openly available as before, the Bangalore Kidney Foundation realized they needed to set up transport for its patients. The foundation borrowed cars and an ambulance driver and created a transport route for their patients.
- Receiving Nutritional Foods. The foundation understood how important it is for those needing renal care to keep up a healthy diet. Using a crowd-fund called the BKF COVID-19 fund, it raised money to ensure each patient had the nutritional foods needed to survive during this unprecedented time.
- Receiving Supplements. As is the case with providing nutritious foods, the crowd-funded BKF COVID-19 fund ensured patients received essential immune supplements.
- Financial Support. Finally, the foundation knew that many of their patients lost their jobs and could no longer make the payments necessary to access care services. For those who could not afford their dialysis, BKF allowed them to continue receiving treatments for free.
Through its initiatives, the Bangalore Kidney Foundation has saved hundreds of people who might have otherwise lost their lives from the socio-economic aftermath of COVID-19. The foundation has and will continue to help those in need in Bengaluru so that patients can pull through from the pandemic and its economic effects.