Buddhist Non-profit FHSM Launches Humanitarian Appeal for India’s COVID-19 Crisis

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2021-05-17 |

The Buddhist non-profit organization The Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (FHSM) has launched a new humanitarian appeal in response to the national crisis that has overtaken India in the wake of the nation’s ongoing second wave of COVID-19 infections, which has seen total infections climb above 24 million. 

India is in the midst of its second and most deadly wave of COVID-19, which emerged in February. The World Health Organization has reported that the highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617.2, first detected in India, has been spreading across the country and around the world. Although the current wave in India is believed to be peaking, daily deaths remain above 4,000, according to government data.

“India’s second wave of COVID-19 is spreading at a frightening pace, surpassing the peak of 97,894 cases recorded during the first wave in September 2020,” FHSM president Gauthama Prabu told Buddhistdoor Global. “The magnitude of this second wave saw infections rise from 8,635 on 1 February to 103,558 on 5 April—just 62 days! India took 110 days to reach its peak during the first wave from 8,100 cases on 29 May 2020.”

Image courtesy of FHSMImage courtesy of FHSM

At the time of writing on 17 May, India had reported a total of 24.97 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 274,390 related deaths, and has administered 182.2 million vaccine doses. Globally, total cases have exceeded 163 million, with 3.38 million related deaths recorded and 1.46 billion vaccine doses administered.*

However, experts have expressed concern that a dearth of test kits in many parts of India, particularly rural areas, means that large numbers of deaths and infections have not made it into official data, and that the actual situation on the ground is almost certainly much worse. 

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, is also running desperately short of vaccine doses in the face of massive demand, with less than 3 per cent of its population of about 1.35 billion people fully vaccinated, according to government data.

Image courtesy of FHSMImage courtesy of FHSM

Since last year, the FHSM’s emergency relief fund has been used to undertake relief work by reaching out to members of India’s most vulnerable and ignored communities, which have been hardest hit by the crisis, providing basic living necessities such as food staples and personal hygiene items.**

“It is immensely challenging work in these conditions, so we have been looking at our objectives from multiple directions: 1) eradicating hunger; 2) health and safety for sanitation workers; 3) education for poor children; 4) micro-businesses for the poor during lockdown; and 5) counseling for families in distress,” said Prabu, who is also chairman of the Tamil Buddhist Society.

Amid the rapid spread of this year’s second wave, as some India states extend their lockdowns, hospitals in major urban centers have been overwhelmed, reporting massive shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, and other medical supplies, leading to increased suffering and a rapidly mounting death toll. Many Hospitals have had to turn patients away, while mortuaries and crematoriums have been unable to cope with the influx of bodies. Media reports have shown images of makeshift funeral pyres in parking lots and scores of corpses washing up on the banks of the Ganges river.

Image courtesy of FHSMImage courtesy of FHSM

“FHSM has been working in partnership with COVID care centers to offer strategic interventions in COVID prevention, treatment, and post-treatment and victim support,” Prabu explained. “This includes COVID helplines, vaccine facilitation, infrastructure assistance to hospitals, drug-supply logistics, home-care coordination, social-enterprise training, humanitarian relief for vulnerable communities, and so on.

“We are also focusing our resources and network on sourcing oxygen concentrators and other supplies for medical centers, where critically ill patients are dying simply due to a lack of resources,” said Prabu, adding that the FHSM has so far sourced more than 46 oxygen concentrators, which have been donated to hospitals and health centers.

Headquartered in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras) in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the foundation has been running an ongoing COVID-19 emergency relief operation since last year to tackle the devastating repercussions being felt by disadvantaged communities across India. Prabu emphasized that the extensive lockdowns had “brought the lives and livelihoods of 1.3 billion people to a complete standstill. India’s helpless poor are starving for food and struggling to get essential items for their survival. The harsh brunt of the coronavirus pandemic has been at its worst on children, women, and the elderly.”

Image courtesy of FHSMImage courtesy of FHSM

Named in commemoration of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–c. 232 BCE), a key figure in the propagation of Buddhism across Asia, the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty was founded in 2007 with a stated mission to: “preserve, promote, and disseminate the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and social justice through non-formal education, sustainable livelihood, and conservation of ecology, alternative/preventive medicines, social empowerment, social advocacy, and social development in order for the restoration of the human dignity of the poor and marginalized.” (Facebook) The FHSM is affiliated with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.

“We are immensely grateful to our team of volunteers, who have co-operated and co-ordinated with FHSM staff to implement our relief operations,” said Prabu. “We have taken special care to maintain hygiene and sanitary standards for our field activities. All staff members and volunteers were given masks and sanitizer. We are also thankful to the government officials, local administrations, experts, and social workers who have been constantly mentoring us and facilitating our work.”

International donations for the FHSM can be made to:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 31203682095
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: SBIN0007948

Within India, donations to the fund can be made to:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 30522574810
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: SBIN0007948

For more information contact: 

Tel: +91-9791239333 / +91-8680020086 / +91-9840813935

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