Huma Qureshi has joined hands with Save The Children, a trusted NGO for children, to pledge a ‘Breath of Life’ to those battling Covid in the capital. Between promotions for Army of the Dead, Zack Synder’s Hollywood zombie film streaming on Netflix, and a political drama, Maharani, on Sony Liv, the actress has been tirelessly working towards raising money to set up a 150-bed Covid Care Centre in Delhi, along with an oxygen plant. The project also aims to provide medical kits to patients for treatment at home, including consultations with doctors and psycho-social therapists.
The idea was born from seeing family, friends and colleagues fall ill and realising the magnanimity of the crisis brought on by the on-going pandemic. “You feel this can’t happen to you, then you watch people around you and on TV scramble for hospital beds, medicines and oxygen. It was scary and I felt I had to do something. Just venting on social media was not enough,” says Huma.
She decided to start with Delhi, her hometown, and informs that they have already identified a hospital in Tilak Nagar. “Seventy oxygen concentrators have already reached them and work on the Covid Care facility will start as soon as we raise the money needed,” she asserts.
The actress has a reason to be optimistic, having raised Rs 70 lakh in just 10 days. A fortnight later, they are halfway to their goal with generous contributions from several people, including industry colleagues like Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty, Hansal Mehta, Ramesh Taurani, Monisha Advani, Rajkummar Rao, Sonakshi Sinha and Sudeep Dutt. Brother Saqib Saleem, Zack and Deborah Synder and Ajay Chaudhary, CMD, Ace Group India, have also added to the kitty.
“So many people have been generous with their time, support and money. The pandemic has been hard on us, but it has also shown us the kindness in human beings. I sent out messages and emails, some responded immediately, some didn’t reply. I thought they weren’t interested only to discover that they had quietly donated without looking for public acknowledgement and appreciation. For me too, this is not a vanity project,” says the overwhelmed actress.
The pooled resources will be used to set up and run this facility, which is a citizens’ collective aiming to bridge the gap brought on by economic inequalities. “The idea is to set up on-ground systems and develop infrastructure so we can take this forward to other cities and villages. I am not an expert, but there’s talk of a third wave. It’s best to be prepared so it doesn’t take us by surprise like the second wave did,” Huma points out.
The idea of extending 50 beds to include a pediatric and neonatal ICU was done on the recommendation of Dr Jitender Kaur as there’s a growing concern that children are now equally vulnerable to the virus. “I know of a family where everyone was fine except for a 10-month baby who had contracted Covid,” she shares, adding that pregnant woman are at risk too since they cannot be vaccinated. “One lady who had tested positive was turned away by 47 hospitals in Bangalore before my brother reached out to an NGO who got her a bed in Rainbow Hospital where she delivered a boy. Both mother and baby are fine.”
Huma also recalls getting an SoS one night about a child whose parents had died from Covid and his neighbours were afraid to take him in. She reached out to the rescue team with details and within an hour, he was settled with another set of neighbours. “A child needs a family… caregivers. They need protection, nutrition and education,” she sighs. Point out that Amitabh Bachchan has adopted two orphans, settled them in a home in Hyderabad and will pay for their entire education, and she applauds, “Yes, we can pledge to take care of a child’s education, healthcare and food. But when it comes to legal adoption, it’s best to go through the process, no matter how cumbersome it is. During a natural calamity, a lot of families get broken up and children go missing from homes and hospitals. Some land up in worse conditions, some are even trafficked. We have to keep a watch out for dubious adoptions,” she cautions.
According to her the need of the hour is vaccination. Pointing out that countries like the US and France are opening up after shutting down their economy and vaccinating their entire population systematically, Huma asserts that it’s important for people to get back to their normal lives. “Yes, India is a large country and the numbers are a challenge. But vaccination is the way out. Mumbai and the BMC have been exceptional, tirelessly working to make the process smooth. Other cities can replicate their vaccination and healthcare models,” Huma maintains, urging people to help their household help and office staff navigate on-line registrations.
“Some of my industry colleagues like Mr Bijli from PVR have pledged to vaccinate those working with them and their families!” she exults.
Point towards vaccination hesitancy and the deep-rooted fear that jabs can cause death, and she acknowledges misinformation is rampant. “Earlier, we were in denial, believing Indian immunity and the weather would keep the coronavirus at bay. Now, we can take a leaf out of the books of other countries. My dad who had a health scare in January was a wee bit reluctant. Our doctor advised us to wait till he’s stronger, then vaccinate him. He’s taken the first jab and is doing fine,” Huma shares, urging every adult above 18 years to get inoculated and when vaccines are found to be safe for children, get them jabbed too.
“Imagine being a child at a time like this? You can’t run around with friends, you’ve lost two years of going to school and missed out on several milestones. In my building we have a dozen children who’d make a lot of noise as they cycled around. Now, in the deafening silence, I think about them, the moments and memories that have been taken away. It’s so unfair,” she signs off emotionally.
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