In the times of covid: Finding purpose and strength in adversity

August 06, 2021 8:09 AM

It is human empathy and philanthropy that will help us get through these dark times and lead us to a better and brighter world.

covid 19 pandemicWe must remember that we are in this together and we will emerge stronger to a healthier, caring and more equitable world.

The coronavirus surge that overwhelmed India’s healthcare system just about a month back was an event that brought us closer to the realisation that with global support and collaboration every challenge is surmountable. It is human empathy and philanthropy that will help us get through these dark times and lead us to a better and brighter world.

As India was grappling with an acute shortage of Medical Oxygen during the Covid-19 second wave, and television channels and social media feeds were exploding with heart-wrenching images of desperate families running pillar-to-post to arrange Oxygen cylinders for their near and dear ones, the British Asian Trust took immediate measures and utilised its resources to provide timely help to as many people and healthcare providers as possible, and contributed to the collective efforts made nationwide to alleviate people’s distress.

One such heart-wrenching story we heard was of 21-year-old Sushma, mother of three, who was left with no source of income after her husband took his own life at the start of the pandemic. In a moment of desperation, she too attempted suicide by poisoning herself and her children, only for them to be saved by a neighbour who rushed them to a nearby hospital. On hearing her story, the British Asian Trusts partner on the ground found Sushma and extended its support by giving her family rations and financial aid to help her tide through this difficult period.
It was stories like Sushma’s and several other that spurred the British Asian Trust to launch its ‘Oxygen for India’ Appeal to raise money and sought support from the British India diaspora, corporates and the wider public. In this effort, we joined hands with the diaspora from the UK, the US and several other countries. The appeal was hugely successful as the fundraising efforts helped us raise over 5 million pounds. With these resources, we managed to mobilise 4,859 oxygen concentrators and 3 oxygen generators that were installed at charitable hospitals across Karnataka and Rajasthan. We also leveraged our combined expertise in public health, logistics, and technology sectors – managing a complex set of negotiations with manufacturers to ensure optimum procurement numbers, and worked with the top private sector logistics and delivery solutions companies to ensure transparent, on-time last mile delivery, despite the challenging circumstances.

On the procurement and delivery of concentrators, we partnered with ACT Grants and Swasth Digital Health Foundation, a not-for-profit founded by public health experts. Swasth, with the help of experts and its robust technology platform, identified the overall demand for oxygen concentrators across India. These included interior-most districts and small towns that otherwise did not have access to emergency relief supplies and were most deeply impacted during the second wave of the Covid-19 crisis. The timely delivery of oxygen concentrators helped to save thousands of lives because unlike oxygen cylinders these devices and equipment can generate oxygen from air and do not require any refilling.

The successful implementation of a project of this scale was possible only due to the unstinted support and combined efforts of all our stakeholders from the Indian and UK governments and our Advisors, including funding and programme partners in India.

However, we did realise that oxygen alone was not going to address all the other pressing needs of this current crisis that include shortage of medical care, unavailability of diagnostic facilities and equipment, and lack of food among the most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, these marginalised communities face a double challenge—of not being able to access the care facilities and the lack of basic information and awareness of what needs to be done once they test Covid positive.

The purpose of the Trust, which was founded in 2007 by HRH The Prince of Wales and a group of British Asian Business Leaders, was to enable mitigation of widespread poverty, inequality and injustice in South Asia. With this pandemic, the social and income inequality has only aggravated, which might lead to more social injustice, and hence we shoulder a greater responsibility to play our part in addressing the social challenges in the near future. We continue to focus our efforts in five key areas—education, livelihoods, anti-trafficking, mental health and conservation. Our vision is to see South Asia free from poverty, where everyone can live and work to meet their full potential.

We are truly humbled by the scale and intensity of support, kindness, and generosity we have received from our patrons, contributors and collaborators. It is with your relentless support that we can continue our commitment towards serving the community. We must remember that we are in this together and we will emerge stronger to a healthier, caring and more equitable world.

After all, adversity shows us the importance of caring, because without a sense of care, there can be no sense of community. And as Jamsetji Tata said “In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder but is in fact the very purpose of its existence.”

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