When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, most countries decided to shut down their borders to prevent the virus from spreading internationally. Humanitarian efforts could never be contained within those borders. Instead, charitable organizations, including the Tzu Chi (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation), always went to where help was most needed. It is a daily reminder, even as the spread of the virus begins to ebb in many parts of the world, that increasingly the threats we face now are on a global scale, and they must be fought and won together, as one.
It is in this spirit that despite the difficulties of marshaling resources and sending them abroad amid lockdown, that Tzu Chi has looked to the entire world from the genesis of the pandemic, and has never stopped its relief effort both at home and away, in other countries and regions. As of May 25, 2021, Tzu Chi has mobilized many volunteers from around the world to provide pandemic prevention aid to a total of 92 countries and regions, delivering 31 types of preventative gears totaling a staggering 25,558,439 items.
In addition to helping to constrain the virus, Tzu Chi has also been deeply concerned with the welfare of the many families around the world that have lost their livelihood due to COVID-19. These families must wage daily battles against the potentially life-threatening pandemic but must also struggle to survive against the threat of starvation. That is why Tzu Chi has also sent relief packages that have benefited 39 countries and regions (including Taiwan) to date. Providing aid such as food and other necessities to more than two million households and five million individuals.
A major component of this work is getting relief to those in need as quickly and efficiently as possible. To achieve this, Tzu Chi has worked with a total of 7,812 local organizations (including 185 in Taiwan), including hospitals and clinics, care centers, humanitarian organizations, schools, and religious groups.
For example, Tzu Chi volunteers have put together three shipments of 72,000 protective suits for Cambodia, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. These containers are scheduled to ship from Taiwan on May 28 and will arrive in Cambodia on June 3.
Another important shipment containing 44,980 KN95 face masks have been provided for the Samdech Techo Youth Volunteer Doctor Association (TYDA) in Cambodia, an organization that mobilizes thousands of medical professionals, medical students, and volunteers to help provide free healthcare to rural Cambodians, and has been on the frontline fighting COVID-19 in the country.
Similarly in Nepal, on the morning of May 21, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, represented by Piya Ratna, donated 70,000 medical gloves to the Bir Hospital. Regarding this effort, Dr. Santosh Paudel, the Acting Chief Medical Superintendent of the Trauma Center at Bir Hospital said: “We are thankful that the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has helped and supported our hospital in this difficult time. These gloves will allow us [medical professionals] to help and treat infected patients.”
Dr. Dibya Singh Shah, the Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) under Tribhuvan University in Nepal, also expressed gratitude for Tzu Chi’s timely help in the country’s time of need. She said that the five ventilators sent by Tzu Chi in the previous week have already saved many lives. The machines went into use immediately after the donation ceremony. Many of the hospital’s patients are in very serious conditions, some are even on the floor. They are truly thankful for Tzu Chi’s help.
India remains one of the most afflicted countries in the world. On May 25, a shipment of 200 oxygen generators donated by Tzu Chi reached the Mumbai offices of ABM Samaj Prabodhan Sanstha, a Buddhist organization that has worked with Tzu Chi to distribute relief in India in the past. Of these generators, 80 will be sent to the city of Bengaluru in the southern state of Karnataka, to the local chapter of the Camillians, while 20 will be sent to the Missionaries of Charity in the town of Gharghoda, to support the fight against the pandemic in those places.