Helping Asia in the Fight Against COVID-19

On May 27, 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, deliver medical supplies and personal protective equipment via Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan to the military and police force in Khan Pou Senchey. Photo/Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

By Dilber Shatursun

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With the promise of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and increasing returns to “normalcy,” many of us began 2021 with an air of hope. But in India, the Delta variant had been gaining deadly ground. Suddenly, the whole world looked on in horror as photos of mass cremations emerged by April. This new wave was a proverbial canary in the coal mine, so Tzu Chi USA put all hands on deck and launched the COVID-19 fundraiser, “Send Help to Asia.”

Tzu Chi Nepal volunteers deliver medical supplies to the National Kidney Center of Nepal in Kathmandu on June 21, 2021. Photo/Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

By May 2021, the Global Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation had already been sending medical and personal protective equipment (or PPE) and food across seven different countries including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Cambodia. Fifty-nine local partner organizations helped distribute these items to over 330,000 families and groups. One such donation included five ventilators being sent to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. A week after the donation, the Dean of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Dibya Singh Shah, told us that the ventilators had already saved many lives.

Donated medical supplies include…

  • COVID-19 vaccine doses in Taiwan
  • Oxygen generator plants in India
  • Oxygen tanks & concentrators
  • Ventilators
  • X-ray, ECG, and autoclave machines
  • KN95 respirators and surgical masks
  • Protective coveralls
  • Gloves and more

In the meantime, a generous donor contributed $1 million US dollars as a donation match, through which Tzu Chi USA could ultimately pitch in $2 million to this global effort. In addition to medical support, this money would help send household items like food and soap to families struggling economically. “I came to Kathmandu to work from my hometown,” said Sumita Tamang, a Tzu Chi care recipient at a socially distanced food distribution in Nepal in June. Having lost her job due to shutdowns, she’d been left scrambling to make ends meet. “It is a great relief to receive this food now,” she told us; “it is a gift from the Buddha.”

Donated household items include…

  • Dry goods, e.g. rice and flour
  • Cooking oil
  • Beans and lentils
  • Powdered milk
  • Sugar and salt
  • Hand sanitizer and soap

Further east, Taiwan, which had remarkably escaped widespread COVID-19 infections in 2020, was grappling with its first wave of the disease by the spring of 2021. As Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan distributed PPE and other relief items across the country, in May, they began the process to secure a particularly precious item: COVID-19 vaccines. By July, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, in cooperation with the government of Taiwan, had been granted permission to purchase five million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be distributed and administered for free throughout the country. It has indeed been a breakthrough milestone that could not have been achieved without the support of gracious donors in Taiwan, the U.S. and around the world.

At the Tzu Chi Jing Si Hall in Taiwan, an elder receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo/Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Moreover, it is compassion in the far reaches of our world that proves that relief is possible in the face of obstacles. Out of concern and respect for the risks posed to one another’s families, organizers of a Tzu Chi food distribution in May in Narayanganj, Bangladesh required that volunteers get consent from their households to join despite the risk. What’s more, the stigma of women holding jobs outside the home gave one organizer’s mother a great pause. Sahida was a key organizer, and after her fellow volunteer Rajib explained the good her participation would do for the community, Sahida’s mother shocked everyone by not only allowing her daughter to participate, but to volunteer herself, along with her other children – proving that humanity triumphs all. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Tzu Chi remains hopeful that peace and well-being lie on the horizon. With vigilance, compassion, and love, Tzu Chi USA is committed to helping its brothers and sisters in need, wherever they may be.

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For full stats and to learn more about our COVID-19 relief efforts, visit tzuchi.us/coronavirus.

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