India (MNN) — India accounts for the most maternal, newborn, and child deaths in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Danny Punnose says Gospel for Asia (GFA) hopes to stop this trend with a new 300-bed hospital in Kerala.
"It'll help to not only treat people in need, but it'll actually be used to train those who need a basic medical education," says Punnose.
While many people learn the basics of health, hygiene, and first aid at a young age in the West, Punnose says that's not the case in Southeast Asia. Everything from education to employment is based on the caste system, a social structure in which classes are determined by heredity.
"If you're on the top, you get all the benefits," Punnose explains. "If you're on the bottom, you get nothing. You're a Dalit."
Dalits are also called the "Untouchables," the social lepers of India. Punnose says they're the most vulnerable and at-risk population in India.
"Most of these Dalits are in the rural areas and tribal areas; they're also the ones in the slums," says Punnose.
In these communities, superstition, rituals, and wives' tales often take the place of true medical knowledge. Since cows and their "byproducts" are considered sacred in Hinduism, many mothers are told to put cow dung on the umbilical cord of newborn infants.
In addition, Punnose says many people give cow's milk to newborns, instead of the first milk that comes from their mother.
"Cow's milk is very harsh on the little infant's tummy, and the first milk that the babies are supposed to get has all the vitamins and antibodies and everything else [they need]," says Punnose.
Dalits are one people group that needs the lifesaving education this new hospital will provide. But the GFA-supported workers who help them will need it, too.
"[These] people will be serving in the slums, serving in the very rural and tribal areas where there is no medical facility," Punnose describes.
By caring for Dalits' physical needs in this way, believers will be showing them the love of Christ.
Punnose says, "It just gives open doors all-around for people to know how much Christ actually loves them."
If you know a medical worker with a heart for missions, share this story with them.
"Doctors and nurses who have that mindset of Christ, that's what we would like to see," says Punnose.
Construction on the hospital is currently underway, and Punnose says they're pleased with its progress. Pray that GFA gets enough funding to open it by the end of the year.
If you'd like to learn more about the work of Gospel for Asia, visit their Web site by clicking here.