A Canadian Christian organization that helps people with diseases like leprosy is making a difference in India, reports Rebecca Collett of Effect Hope.
“I’m worried that I might not be able to get the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Ahmed, who was still waiting for his vaccine after lining up for three days at a government vaccination site near Bihar, India.
India now faces another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – in early July an estimated 300,000 new cases and 6,000 deaths per week. With so many, the health system is overwhelmed.
Shortages of hospital beds, medicine and oxygen are major challenges, but so is the great divide in digital access and literacy. For poor and marginalized people in India, mandatory registration through an online vaccine portal is more of a roadblock than a help.
After waiting so long, Ahmed explained that he “was asked to register myself on the CoWIN government portal. I am not able to understand and register myself.”
For Ahmed, the barriers to the vaccine go beyond navigating an online portal. Ahmed is a man affected by leprosy. The disabilities and visible marks left by this disease make it difficult for him to travel and to be in public spaces. The stares, whispers and outright abuse he faces because of a disease – from which he has been cured – will likely never stop.
Many people with diseases like leprosy face discrimination and stigma in their daily life. Even though there has been an effective cure for leprosy for 40 years, many are excluded from work opportunities, community and family life. Some affected by leprosy are more vulnerable to a Covid-19 infection due to a compromised immune system and crowded living conditions.
As about a billion people in India rush to get their vaccines, it’s clear that those with leprosy, like Ahmed, will be at the back of the line unless they receive support.
But the organization where I work is offering help. Effect Hope is a Canadian Christian global health organization focused on supporting people with neglected tropical diseases like leprosy.
Since launching a campaign in May, Effect Hope and a partner on the ground have helped almost 1,000 people with leprosy, including Ahmed, receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. It costs Effect Hope $35 to provide one person with both doses of the vaccine and safe transportation to and from the vaccination site.
“As followers of Jesus, our mission is to bring hope and restoration to people affected by neglected tropical diseases like leprosy,” said Kim Evans, CEO of Effect Hope. “We want to ensure that these vulnerable people are not forgotten in the race to get vaccines out. We cannot stand by and watch” without helping.
To learn more about how Effect Hope is helping people with leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases to access Covid-19 vaccines in India, visit https://effecthope.org/vaccination. Also read their annual report here.