Medical Missions: COVID-19 in Ghana and Togo
The world of medical missions has always involved challenges.
Often serving in the most remote areas, missionaries see more than their fair share of disease, death, and hardship.
The coronavirus pandemic is adding yet another layer of difficulties for them to face.
And we’re tuning in to see what’s happening in the areas they serve. We want to know how countries around the world are being impacted by the virus. We watch the headlines daily stats for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for each one.
But we also understand the impact that COVID-19 can have beyond battling the disease itself. Economic difficulties and other hardships are also arising, regardless if an area is currently experiencing an outbreak.
MedSend recently learned about the auxiliary challenges being faced in two areas served by our grant recipients. Both are stateside and ready to return to their assigned countries but have been sidelined due to travel restrictions. Dr. Heidi Haun is a surgeon serving in Ghana, and Dr. Seth Mallay is a family physician who will serve in Togo. Both remain in touch with counterparts in their respective countries and shared about the local impact of the coronavirus.
Heidi Haun, Medical Missionary in Ghana
“COVID is present in Ghana, but not like in the Americas,” Heidi tells us. Deaths have been in the hundreds ( 182 people had died as of July 31, 2020), and cases have been in the thousands ( approximately 35,501 cases confirmed by the end of July).
Ghana responded similarly to the rest of the world, initially, by closing borders and imposing lockdowns. The lockdowns within the country only lasted about three weeks, however. Heidi told us that “day to day living is impossible” if the residents can’t go to market to buy food every day or two.
The borders remain closed, which Heidi explains is the reason that they can’t get “home.” While she awaits her return, Heidi has been monitoring what has been going on at her hospital during her absence.
Testing Difficulties and Few Ventilators
“In our hospital, there have been three confirmed cases,” she tells us. But, “there has been some difficulty in testing some of the other cases that have been questionable.” The hospital only has two ventilators – one in the operating room and one in the recovery room. She says that if a major outbreak came, they would not have enough ventilators available to handle it.
“Thankfully,” she says, “at this point it is not a widespread pandemic in that local area of northern Ghana.”
Still, over 2,000 healthcare workers have been infected with coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak. A shortage of PPE initially made it difficult for workers to protect themselves; the Ghana Health Service has since taken measures to procure and provide adequate supplies for workers.
Heidi is committed to medical missions for life. She intends to return to Ghana with her husband and two children as soon as they can. In the meantime, she wants to “redeem the time” by being used in whatever capacity the Lord provides.
Seth Mallay, Medical Missionary in Togo
Seth Mallay is a family physician who began his medical missions career in Togo several years ago. He is a new MedSend grant recipient and is eager to return.
Seth knows that deadly viral hemorrhagic fevers, malaria, and snake bites are a “normal and constant reality” in Togo. Now that a global pandemic is part of the mix, resources are more strained than ever before.
“There have been almost no cases in Togo,” says Seth. “And relatively few deaths. “ There have been no known cases at the hospital that he will serve – so far.
“The greatest impact that COVID has had …is that none of the typical medical volunteers have been allowed to come into the country,” Seth says. The hospital relies on volunteers who come to work for a week or a month. But when Togo closed their borders, he says “All of that ceased entirely.”
Several long-term missionaries who were headed to Togo (including Seth) have also been delayed.
“The workload in a mission hospital is always interesting,” he says. “But it’s been a little more interesting, thanks to the pandemic.”
“We back home of course are watching,” he says. “And our desire is to get back and to help them in whatever way that we can. But, we’re feeling a little helpless in that regard.”
Seth counters that helpless feeling with prayer. He prays that the Lord will sustain both the missionaries and the people of Togo.
The MedSend team joins Seth in prayer, and we lift up all of our grant recipients who are fulfilling their callings!
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
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