4.5.20 Madhipura Christian Hospital, Madhipura, Bihar, Northeast India
“As a nation, we didn’t see this coming. It hit us by surprise. In the villages, no one knew what was going on. In spite of having mobile phones and access to the internet, the villagers were completely unprepared. At Madhipura Christian Hospital, we have been prayerfully preparing for the storm that could be coming soon. We are the only hospital in our district with functioning ventilators and facilities for acute care. We are making masks and PPEs in-house, as it is really expensive to procure them commercially.
Madhepura and the surrounding five districts are all on the list of the 25 least developed districts in India. The most marginalized people group are the Mahadalits, or ‘untouchables.’ This group of people are at the lowest rung of the caste system that is an unspoken reality in our villages. Considered to be sub-human, they have been so oppressed and ostracized for centuries that one of their staple foods is rats, so they are casually referred to as ‘the rat-eaters.’ Our community program staff have been implementing a holistic community transformation work among these people that includes all aspects of health and development work.
Over the past year, we have expanded our program to include 15 new villages that all have sizeable Mahadalit populations. These are extremely backward areas where the light of development has not reached. Our plan is to reach out to 500 families in these during this difficult time.
One of the pressing needs of the hour is food. With the 21-day lockdown, all laborers have been laid off. Since the majority of these people work as daily-wage laborers, they now have no money to buy food. Moreover, many of the men who had migrated elsewhere for work are stuck in various parts of the country as they were unable to get back before the lockdown. There is a huge humanitarian crisis in the midst of the pandemic crisis. The government does have plans for programs to provide for villagers living below the poverty line. However, a lot of this gets lost in the red tape and doesn’t really reach the people.
We have identified the most vulnerable families in these villages. These include widows, people with disabilities, those with mental health issues, palliative care patients, and women and children whose breadwinners are away. We plan to provide their staple food for at least one month until more clarity emerges about the future. There is also a need to provide them with face masks for prevention of the spread of the virus, and toiletries to keep themselves clean. In the eye of the current situation, supplying these kits to every family is a high priority to avoid a disaster in our villages.
Our staff, local tailors, and village women we trained in sewing are all stitching cloth masks, each of which costs 25 cents. The food packets with rice, lentils, salt, oil, flour, and soap cost $27 per family, and should feed them for a month.
Please pray that God blesses this effort and helps these families through it.”
~ Dr. Arpit Mathew Jacob, Managing Director and Senior Administrative Officer