As COVID-19 continues to cause suffering and despair around the world, many countries are also experiencing conflict and political turmoil. Please continue to pray for all of our partners as they stand alongside people in situations of great hardship.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33
The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan after NATO’s 20-year military mission there has the potential to cause great instability in this war-torn country and its region. This, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is creating despair and uncertainty for a people who have already known so much suffering.
Tearfund partners with a number of organisations in Afghanistan that are delivering vital health, education and livelihood support to help vulnerable people enjoy greater health, well-being and dignity, and also providing specific care and support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it may have slipped from the headlines in Australia and case numbers are thankfully decreasing, India’s COVID-19 crisis is still causing great suffering and anguish, as well as disruption and upheaval, across the country. It also has wider implications.
Tearfund partners with the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) in India. EHA has been working with communities in Aligarh, Agra and Champa, urban areas which are being heavily impacted by the country’s second wave of COVID-19. EHA is providing cash support for medications and nutrition to treat COVID, and food relief packages for families.
Tearfund has supported work to provide relief and medical supplies to communities through the Champa Christian Hospital, including surgical and N95 masks, PPE, gloves and hand sanitiser.
Dr Deepak S. Singh, regional director of EHA, shares:
The EHA hospitals have had to adapt to various situations and come up with innovative ways to keep things running in different locations. We as an organisation have much to be thankful for. The pandemic now sits on our doorstep, with our staff and communities in remote locations, putting themselves at risk of infections. Moreover, the hospitals have been running non-stop, providing essential services in their locales, despite the risk of having potentially infected people come into our doors. Yet, God has been merciful and has protected us all these months.
Santhosh contracted leprosy very early in life. Now 40, his condition has meant that finding work has been difficult, as has helping with household tasks. His wife Sukmat has had to juggle multiple roles – taking care of her unwell husband and their three children, managing household chores and being the family’s breadwinner. Working as a daily wage labourer, Sukmat’s earnings were hardly enough to meet the family’s daily needs. Whatever small sums she could save went to paying for her husband’s medical treatment. This left the family with almost no money to fall back on in times of trouble.
When COVID-19 struck the family was in a bind. Sukmat wasn’t able to work, and the rations they received from the government were not enough to feed the whole family.
Tearfund’s partner Emmanuel Hospital Association began a COVID relief response in their village, and provided them with much-needed rations to keep the whole family healthy and nourished. Although Santhosh and his wife were unable to express their gratitude in words, their faces said it all. With eyes welling up with tears and hands folded in gratitude, the couple thanked the team for restoring hope to their lives. The relief project has supported 270 families in 14 rural communities and two urban slums.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that some 400 million Indians, including migrant workers and daily wage earners, are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty because of the pandemic. More than 350,000 people have died from COVID and more than 9,000 children have been orphaned. There are fears that this will lead to child labour, trafficking and even sex work. EFICOR’s teams have been alerted to create awareness in communities about trafficking and to ensure the protection of child rights.
EFICOR is working with the Indian government to get as many people as possible vaccinated, particularly ensuring that the most vulnerable people are able to get vaccinations. Watch this short video to find out more about this important work:
In partnership with UNICEF, EFICOR has been raising awareness of COVID-19 prevention measures among the Chenchu and Koya tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states in South India. EFICOR teams have distributed soap to 300 tribal families, and also reached thousands of people with messages on simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like effective handwashing, how to wear masks and handle them correctly, what symptoms to look out for, and how to connect with local health centres for testing and counselling.
EFICOR is also working alongside Prem Jyoti Hospital, a wing of Emmanuel Hospital Association, in Chadragoda to improve health infrastructure for COVID treatment and promote vaccinations.
A possible third wave of COVID in India has been predicted. Several civil society organisations, including EFICOR, have been engaged to help prepare for this potential third wave and support local frontline health workers to tackle the current COVID situation.
Nepal has been hit hard by the pandemic. Its case numbers surged in recent months, driven partly by the return of migrant workers from neighbouring India.
Joel Hafvenstein, Executive Director of United Mission to Nepal (UMN), has shared in the organisation’s June newsletter about the very difficult situation there.
The past month has been harrowing for Nepal. After a relatively light first wave and a several-month lull, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit fast and hard. Before this wave is past, the confirmed death toll from coronavirus will exceed that of the 2015 earthquakes – and COVID-19 has a much bigger hidden death toll: people who die without ever being tested for the virus.
He writes that while the second wave is beginning to recede, “many rural areas are still going through the worst of it”. But, he writes, “God is with us, and we continue to trust in his care and provision through the worst tragedies that the world has to throw at us.”
UMN is working through hospitals and small teams to save as many lives as possible. In the areas where it works, many rural health institutions were caught unprepared by the second wave of the virus. With hospitals crammed to capacity, UMN’s offices have coordinated with the District COVID-Crisis Management Centre in providing oxygen concentrators, cylinders and emergency medical supplies. Tearfund has supported work in Mugu, in the far north-west of Nepal, where UMN has provided health and safety materials, oxygen concentrators and antigen kits to the district hospital and two rural municipalities.
Tearfund also partners with Partnership for New Life (PNL) in Nepal, supporting the empowerment of marginalised groups in Rupandehi district in Nepal, including people living with disability. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PNL has been distributing food rations and COVID protection items (including masks, soap and hand sanitiser) to the most vulnerable people in the communities it works in, liaising with leaders of Self-Help Groups to identify the people most in need.
Myanmar is experiencing a humanitarian and economic crisis as a result of February’s military coup. Ongoing conflict, particularly in ethnic minority areas, as well as severe socio-economic disruptions are exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Program estimates that an additional 3.4 million people across Myanmar are at risk of food insecurity, particularly in urban centres.
Conflict-driven displacement is rising sharply. As of 15 June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that over 195,000 people have been internally displaced in at least eight out of 14 states / regions across Myanmar – the number more than tripled within a month.
This, coupled with significantly increasing numbers of cases of the more virulent coronavirus strains, including the Delta variant, is creating fear and uncertainty.
In November 2020, the people of the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia found themselves caught up in a conflict between federal and regional government forces. Since then more than two million people have fled their homes due to the fighting, seeking safety in other parts of the region, or in neighbouring Sudan.
Recently the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew its defence forces from Tigray. The Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF) took control of the capital, Mekelle and other cities following the withdrawal. This has led to increasing lawlessness and security concerns and a collapse in social services.
Please pray for our partners, the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission and Tearfund Ethiopia, as they lead two emergency responses (with Tearfund’s support) that are currently providing food and shelter to over 16,000 internally displaced people. While large parts of Tigray remain inaccessible, our partners are managing to support families that are sheltering in schools in the Tigray capital Mekele, as well as reaching others who have fled across Tigray’s eastern border into the neighbouring Afar region, where they have found shelter and support with local families.