Investing in hope and health

Medical staff in Africa thank Barnabas supporters for PPE

Christian hospitals in Africa have sent heartfelt thanks to Barnabas supporters for providing medical staff with much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE). 

As part of our medical.gives initiative, around 50 million pieces of life-saving PPE, donated by the Irish government, have been shipped to health facilities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe (see Barnabas Aid, November/December 2022, p.10). The PPE includes medical masks, gloves and scrubs.

“We want to say thanks so much,” the manager of the Jesse Kay Hospital for children in Nairobi, Kenya told us. “We have just received PPE that will go a long way to assist us.” Staff are especially grateful because they remember “the many days we went without the PPE”, he added.

The PPE consignment is worth around £25 million ($33m; €30m) and was delivered in 40 shipping containers, in partnership with historic charity Crown Agents. Barnabas supporters covered the cost of £12,000 ($16,000; €14,000) to transport each container to its destination. This worked out at just one penny for each piece of PPE.

The PPE was welcomed by Ummy Mwalimu, the Health Minister in Tanzania, in September and it was immediately deployed to protect medical staff from the highly contagious and deadly ebola disease. In Zimbabwe the consignment was distributed between Christian health facilities around the country. It was carried out “in true ‘ubuntu’ style where we share everything”, said a regional director of Crown Agents, referencing the African word that means compassion and concern for human dignity.

Staff at Mount Hampden Rural Clinic, Mahonaland West Province were delighted to receive masks that will help to protect them from Covid and other illnesses, as well as from the dust produced by illegal brick works in the area.

Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu officially receives the PPE from Mags Gaynor, representative of the Irish government [Image credit: Embassy of Ireland, Tanzania] 

“The staff were so grateful because they had no masks in stock, and yet they were attending to patients with all types of illnesses indoors,” said our Crown Agents partner.

“They expressed gratitude to Barnabas for coming in at such an opportune time to respond to their need. They were also grateful for the gloves since they were running low on their stocks.”

New medical training centre for India’s marginalised Christians

A desperate shortage of health professionals continues to be felt across India, especially in the most impoverished, rural areas. It is estimated that nationwide there is a shortfall of 6.4 million allied health professionals (AHPs), who provide crucial ancillary support to doctors and nurses.

Christians in India – the majority of whom come from the most impoverished and disadvantaged communities – often lack training opportunities by which they can enter the medical profession. 

Responding to this ongoing crisis, Barnabas Aid has entered a partnership with the Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) to fund the building of a medical training centre in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, that will train Christian AHPs from across India for service in rural contexts where medical expertise is so desperately needed.

The centre will offer short-term medical skill courses of three to six months duration. Churches in rural areas will be encouraged to identify suitable candidates for training from among their own congregations. These underprivileged believers will be equipped as medical professionals and enabled to serve their communities. It is hoped that up to 120 Christian students will complete these courses each year. 

The training centre will also provide a venue for workshops, seminars and conferences for CMAI’s existing 600-strong community of medical diploma students. Plans are in place for the creation of specialised postgraduate level allied health courses.

An architectural illustration of one of the buildings at the Barnabas-funded medical training centre, which will equip impoverished and marginalised Christian students to serve their communities as allied health professionals

The 44,200-square foot centre is to be built on land near to the Christian Medical College in Vellore, which is recognised as one of the top three teaching hospitals in India. The administrative block of the centre will have classrooms equipped with the latest technology, a 50-seat conference hall, training rooms and a library. A separate auditorium will seat up to 250 people and include a dining area.

“The Vellore centre is strategically placed with access to a high level of expertise,” said Dr Priya L. John, General Secretary of the CMAI. “It will be established as a centre for research and the development of allied health science, as well as other health sciences.”  

“This is a truly exciting development,” said Barnabas Aid’s International Director Patrick Sookhdeo. “In partnership with CMAI, we now have the opportunity to address a keenly felt need, and help train rural Christians in allied health skills.”

Vital modernisation work at Indian Christian hospital

Barnabas is also helping to modernise the aging facilities at a Christian hospital in Madhya Pradesh, India. Lakhnadon Christian Hospital was founded by missionaries from Scotland in the 1920s and is the place that the area’s small Christian community turns to for medical help.

The hospital has 12 in-patient and four high-dependency beds. It is a surgical centre and offers obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics services as well as dental and medical emergency care.

Health staff focus on social welfare activities and community health education programmes as part of their mission to empower underprivileged sections of the community.

Yet the infrastructure of Lakhnadon hospital is old and Barnabas is funding some of the changes required to bring it up to modern standards.

A priority has been to overhaul the hospital’s firefighting systems and equipment. This need took on new urgency following a blaze at a private hospital in Madhya Pradesh in August 2022 in which eight people died. Because short circuits are a common cause of the outbreak of fire, the work has included overhauling the hospital’s electrical wiring.

Barnabas has funded critical safety work at Lakhnadon Christian Hospital

Barnabas is also replacing its two old generators with a new 62.5KVA generator that is sufficient to provide uninterrupted power to supply the hospital, its expanded operation theatre, laboratory and X-ray facilities and staff quarters. A new borewell will ensure there is sufficient water to meet the hospital’s growing needs.

Lakhnadon Hospital was forced to close in 2019 because of a shortage of doctors. It reopened in January 2022 following the recruitment of a new medical team. Since then the hospital has seen a steady increase in outpatient numbers, from 244 in February to 1,017 in August.

A hospital spokesman said, “We praise God for the work He is doing and establishing in Lakhnadon once again after years of very slow paced work.” 

Barnabas Aid officially launched our new medical.gives initiative at a supporters’ meeting at the .gives warehouse in Swindon, UK, in October 2022. 

The programme is run on the same “You Share, We Ship” principle as food.gives and transports medical equipment from Western countries to lands of great need and scarcity where Christians often struggle for access to medical care or treatment.

Some Christians are without hearing aids or glasses.
Others may be without crutches. Christian clinics or medical centres may be in desperate need of equipment such as stethoscopes or blood pressure monitors.

You can help our brothers and sisters by donating the following:

  • Crutches or a walking frame
  • A wheelchair
  • Reading glasses
  • A blood pressure machine (sphygmomanometer)
  • Test strips or glucose monitors for those
    with diabetes
  • A stethoscope

Call 01793 744557 or email info@barnabasaid.org for information about how to make your donation. 

Please ensure when making your donation that the item does not belong to the NHS, Red Cross or a medical company.

You can also donate financially to support the medical.gives shipping costs.

medical.gives (PR1566)
Hospitals and clinics
in India (PR1597)
CMAI allied health training
building Vellore (PR1598)

More stories