Christian Lives Saved,
and health restored
T he lives of poor and marginalised Christians across South and South-East Asia medical projects have been saved, and the health of hundreds improved, thanks to medical projects funded by Barnabas supporters.
Christians working in low-paid jobs or reliant on daily wage earnings are unable to afford health care even in normal times. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic that wiped out most of their jobs and incomes overnight, leaving many struggling to afford food, and their malnourished bodies less likely to resist coronavirus or other ailments.
Thanks to your generous donations Barnabas has funded medical projects in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia that have restored poor Christians to health, raised awareness of the importance of good hygiene practices and won the Church greater respect in the eyes of the majority populations. These are just a few of many examples of how we are using your gifts to help with Covid-related medical needs of our brothers and sisters in these countries as well as in India.
“The fact that a group [of Christians] from out of the country, that has never even met them, wants to help [Christians] has been a testimony to Christ and the fact that His love, mercy and grace transcends all boundaries,” said our project partner in Sri Lanka.
Barnabas brings free health care to Pakistan’s brick-kiln communities
In Pakistan’s Punjab province, Christian brick-kiln workers are at higher risk of developing chronic respiratory illness because of their exposure to dust and smoke generated during their back-breaking labours, and injuries are common. Women often work alongside their husbands, even when heavily pregnant. There is little ante- or post-natal care and child mortality rates are high. Children who survive are often malnourished because of family poverty.
Barnabas is helping to meet the desperate need for health care among these impoverished Christian families by funding a mobile clinic that brings free medical treatment and health care advice to their doorstep. The service travels around brick-kiln communities and ensures that families can seek help early, before a small health problem turns into a serious issue.
The Muslim brick-kiln owners willingly provide a site for the mobile unit’s two staff nurses and a helper/driver to set up a clinic or health “camp” for consultations with patients, who are predominantly Christian.
Thousands of sick Christians receive help
In its first year of operation, the team provided free medicines and treatment to 9,710 people of all ages, including 1,862 children aged five and under. Thanks be to God, the Barnabas-funded mobile unit is already on its way to match, or surpass, that number in its second year.
Typical problems diagnosed include pneumonia, diarrhoea, infectious diseases and rheumatic disorders. Patients with critical illnesses are taken by the team to a government hospital for treatment.
Before Barnabas set up the mobile unit, brick-kiln workers had little option other than to seek help from small private medical centres locally and take out a loan from their employers to pay for any tests, treatment and medicines. The interest on the loan was then deducted from their already meagre weekly wages, and the debt could take years, even generations, to pay off.
Government hospitals provide free services to the poor; however, the cost of travelling to hospitals far from brick-kiln communities is beyond the means of most workers, and they would still have to pay for medicines, which are very expensive.
Sugran was very worried and upset when she sought the help of the Barnabas mobile health unit. Her children had diarrhoea, rashes and itchy skin. Her husband was ill with hypertension and diabetes, and she had constipation, but the family could not afford to seek treatment. After receiving advice and medicines from one of the mobile unit’s nurses, Sugran and her children have recovered and her husband is better able to manage his conditions.
Hygiene habits changed for the better
The mobile health team has brought about other beneficial changes in the habits of brick-kiln communities. Hygiene measures in homes have much improved and more people are wearing face masks and using hand wash to prevent Covid infections. Fewer pregnant women and sick people are resorting to traditional practices, preferring instead to consult the qualified health-care team. Awareness has also been raised of the benefits of the government childhood immunisation programme protecting against potentially deadly and disabling conditions such as diphtheria, polio and tetanus.
Furthermore, the project has consolidated relations between local church leaders and their congregations as pastors helped to encourage people in need to consult the health team.
In the wider Pakistani community, the Church has gained a positive reputation among the majority Muslim population, some of whom have benefited from the health team’s skills. A church leader told us that Muslims are impressed that “a Christian organisation is providing free health care services to the poor, needy and deserving people without any religious, social or political issues”.
Barnabas provided £10,465 ($14,265; €12,550) to cover the cost of setting up the mobile health unit and its operating costs for a year. Funding for the second year is less, at £8,370 ($11,475; €10,025), because there are no start-up costs.
Innovative home care scheme provides help for Christian Covid sufferers in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, Barnabas provided funding for an innovative home care scheme for poor Christians suffering from Covid. It was set up by a group of Sri Lankan Christian healthcare professionals who saw the dire conditions in which many people were struggling to survive after a surge in Covid cases overwhelmed hospitals.
Among the most in need were the many Christian daily wage earners who lost their livelihoods because of the pandemic, and could not afford to feed to their families, let alone pay for medical care.
Taking their inspiration from the picture of restoration in Isaiah 61, the team of doctors and psychologists mobilised volunteers at eleven churches in three provinces of Sri Lanka to provide home care for Christians with Covid.
Each of the volunteers is trained to make home visits to Covid patients (observing strict quarantine rules). The volunteers explain to families how to look after their sick loved ones and give them a care pack containing vitamins, medicines to relieve symptoms, a pulse oximeter and an instruction leaflet. This also contains telephone numbers for government emergency health services, a medical advice line and the church volunteers’ contact details.
Each church was also given an oxygen concentrator – a machine that purifies the air and produces oxygen for needy patients – to help the most acute cases.
Project is “answer to prayer”
“These resources have been nothing short of life changing,” our project partner told us. “And we believe it to be life saving as well.
“We believe this was an answer to prayer and that Barnabas Fund and all those involved will be blessed for wanting to help so many people in this way.”
“Shiyani”, a teacher at a school on a tea plantation, was among more than 380 Covid patients visited by the church volunteers during the scheme’s first ten weeks of operation. “Due to this help, I regained my strength and recuperated,” she said. “I thank God and those who provided the support.”
Retired plantation worker “Arun” and his wife didn’t know where to turn for medical help when they contracted Covid and were relieved to receive a care pack and advice from the church volunteers. “They kept calling over the phone and checked on our welfare,” said Arun. “I can say we lived because of their support.”
“I can say we lived because
of their support”
Volunteers reduce burden on health system
The project has empowered the churches taking part because they have been able to help their suffering brothers and sisters. It has also been valued by health authorities locally for helping to reduce the burden on an overstretched health system. Once case numbers fall, the oxygen concentrators will be given to a Christian palliative care centre.
Barnabas provided £19,640 ($26,645; €23,510) to the home care scheme to fund medical equipment (pulse oximeters and oxygen concentrators) and medicine packs.
Barnabas responds to appeals for help from Indonesia
Indonesia was described by the Red Cross as being on the brink of catastrophe in June 2021 after the Delta variant of Covid-19 raced through the population.
Covid in Indonesia is an “emergency and uncontrollable,” wrote a Christian leader to Barnabas. “We pray, and pray for His mercy.”
Another message pleaded, “If Barnabas Fund would consider to do something meaningful and strategic to the Christian hospitals and patients … this is indeed the Kairos time of God.”
Thanks to the donations of our supporters we were able to respond to our brother’s appeal for help by providing £35,660 ($48,810; €42,751) of personal protective equipment and other medical items to seven hospitals treating Christian patients on the archipelago. These included three hospitals in East Nusa Tenggara, a mainly Christian province that is very poor, remote and under-resourced by the government.
The consignment included face shields, surgical masks, hand
sanitiser, surgical gowns, goggles and gloves as well as antigen test kits and multivitamins.
Project references: PR1534 (Health clinics in Pakistan), PR1530 for Sri Lanka and Indonesia (Covid Emergency Fund)Read more about how Barnabas has helped medical ministries in India respond to the Covid crisis in Barnabas Aid, January/February 2022 or at https://www.barnabasaid.org/gb/magazine/helping-and-healing-our-brothers-and-sisters-in-india-s-covid-crisis/