The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have donated much-needed medical supplies to multiple countries over the past several weeks, underscoring their commitment to bolster public health and help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world.
The two foundations have sourced, purchased and shipped surgical masks and other medical gear to afflicted areas in Japan, South Korea, Italy and Spain. They’ve also sourced and readied for shipment 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million masks for donation to the United States, and donations of medical supplies are planned for Africa.
Jack Ma, who started the foundation that bears his name in 2014, said the best way to fight the looming public health crisis was to erase national boundaries and share resources, know how and hard-earned lessons.
“The crisis presents a huge challenge to all humankind in a globalized world. The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country. Rather, we need to combat the virus by working hand-in-hand,” Ma said.
From the first reported cases in China late last year, the COVID-19 virus has spread to well over 100 countries, with more than 132,000 confirmed cases and nearly 5,000 deaths. It was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization earlier this week.
COVID-19 is not the first health crisis Ma and Alibaba have faced. In 2003, just four years after Alibaba’s founding, Ma and his team led the young company through the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The company persevered and made it through to eventually become one of the world’s largest technology companies.
Ma retired as executive chairman last year to focus on his philanthropic endeavors, which include improving education, the environment and public health. He remains a lifetime Alibaba partner, and the culture of philanthropy he encouraged at the company remains strong.
When COVID-19 struck China during the Lunar New Year season, Alibaba sprang into action, offering up RMB1 billion to source, purchase and ship medical supplies into the hardest-hit regions in China. The company then established and tapped special sourcing channels and set up a “green channel” to ensure speedy delivery of supplies where they were most-needed.
Ma said he was heartened to see the support of other countries and suppliers around the world in China’s time of need, and said it is now only natural to reach out across borders with unconditional help, as the spread of COVID-19 slows in China, but picks up in other parts of the world.
Donations to Europe have been routed through Liege, Belgium, where Alibaba is in the process of establishing a logistics hub for the continent. And Belgium is also at the forefront of Ma’s efforts to create an Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP), with the country the first in Europe to agree in 2018 to set up a digital free-trade hub.
On March 3, Ma’s foundation donated $2.15 million to Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to support the research and development of treatment options – including a vaccine – for COVID-19.
And last month, Ma reached into his own pocket, pledging $2.1 million to Columbia University to speed and further development of a vaccine or treatments for the novel coronavirus. Ma’s donation will fund research by four teams at Columbia University working on different approaches to develop drugs or antibodies that could prevent the COVID-19 virus from replication.
“United we stand, divided we fall,” Ma said.