An open letter to Canadians – we can help India breathe

We’ve all seen or heard about it by now — India collectively struggling to breathe under the latest crushing wave of COVID-19. Sons and daughters running between hospitals, trying to find a bed for a sick parent. Family members taking to social media to find an oxygen tank as a loved one gasps for breath. Orphaned children left behind and now at risk of trafficking. While most of us have seen it in the news, many of us in Canada have heard the painful stories directly from Indian family members and friends.

The exponential increase in COVID-19 cases in India – a country representing almost one fifth of the planet’s population – is alarming. In the past two months, the number of new cases grew from around 18,000 to more than 410,000 per day. In the past 24 hours, India registered about half of all new COVID-19 cases worldwide. There are significant risks of further virus mutation and global spread.

What happens in India matters to all of us. It is painfully ironic that India is a major producer of vaccines to the world – including to Canada. Many lower income countries have also been counting on shipments and donations of vaccines from India to help their own vaccination efforts. This too is now at risk.

Although the pictures in the news from India may look different from what we see here at home, we feel this personally. In Canada, we continue to see our own emergency rooms and ICUs pushed to the brink as they care for people affected by this virus and its mutations. That’s why we know how important it is to take urgent action to stem the tide.

As the CEOs and executive directors of leading Canadian humanitarian response agencies, working together as the Humanitarian Coalition during major emergencies, we know that Canadians are quick to help their global neighbours in their hour of need.
That includes India.

Many of our agencies have long-standing relationships with partners and sister organizations in India. Our colleagues on the ground have asked for our assistance and they are guiding our response to ensure the swift, efficient and effective use of our support. Currently, they are working hard to provide desperately needed oxygen, PPE, medical supplies, food, hygiene items and vaccine promotion. Together we are making a difference, but we need to do more.

The Humanitarian Coalition is calling on Canadians to join us in meeting the pressing needs during this crisis. By working together, we save on costs, deliver direct impact, and ensure stronger programs.

Helping India at this urgent moment is both the right thing and the smart thing to do. By working together through the Humanitarian Coalition, we are saving more lives.

And that is the Canadian thing to do. Canadians can donate for emergency assistance to India online at or by phone at 1-855-461-2154.

  • Paula Tenaglia, Interim Executive Director, Action Against Hunger
  • Andy Harrington, Executive Director, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
  • Karin Achtelstetter, Executive Director, Canadian Lutheran World Relief
  • Barbara Grantham, President and CEO, CARE Canada
  • Richard Morgan, Executive Director, Humanitarian Coalition
  • Alexis Gaiptman, Executive Director, Canada, Humanity & Inclusion
  • Zaid Al-Rawni, CEO, Islamic Relief Canada
  • Lauren Ravon, Executive Director, Oxfam Canada
  • Denise Byrnes, Executive Director, Oxfam Québec
  • Lindsay Glassco, President and CEO, Plan International Canada
  • Danny Glenwright, President and CEO, Save the Children Canada
  • Michael Messenger, President, World Vision Canada