That was when the severe pain in his head and stomach began. Was his condition from dehydration, an inner ear infection, migraines or something worse? Curren did not know. He did know the pain was almost unbearable. Standing up made him dizzy. Working in the fields, his main source of income, was unthinkable.
Curren needed medical attention, but he was among the half of the world’s population without access to needed health care services.1 The nearest quality hospital to Curren was around 50 miles away, an impossible distance with no transportation of his own. This is a common problem for people in rural Asia, where the need to travel long distances presents a significant barrier to attaining health services.2
But proximity alone does not guarantee access. Many impoverished people across Asia like Curren do not have the funds for proper medical treatment, even if it is available.
“I didn’t see any doctor or medical expert because I need money to see them,” Curren said. “I don’t have money for my treatment, so I couldn’t go to any doctor or medical expert.”
Curren sought out a local witch doctor, but his mantra didn’t improve Curren’s condition.
The 40-year-old father’s heart sank. How was he to care for his wife, three children and elderly mother? Would he become one of the 2.9 million who die every year from lack of access to health care?3
A Leaflet of Hope
Hope arrived in the form of a leaflet announcing a free medical camp organized by GFA World’s medical ministry. Perhaps Curren could find some answers and relief after all.
Unable to walk the four miles to the camp, Curren recruited a young neighbor to transport him and his wife on the boy’s bicycle. It was a trek, but the trio managed to reach their destination.
Upon registering, Curren sat and enjoyed some refreshments offered by GFA Sisters of Compassion, who attended those waiting to receive free medical care. While Curren waited his turn to see a doctor, he listened to speakers share about health issues, hygiene and the love of God.
Absorbing the words, Curren perused the scene before him. Children waited with their mothers. Curren had once been one of those village children. He had been fortunate to reach adulthood, but how many of these children might perish without quality health care?
In 2019, 7.4 million children and young people under the age of 25 died, largely due to treatable causes, while more than 5 million children didn’t even reach the age of 5.4
According to UNICEF, “Basic health services like vaccination, medical treatment, adequate nutrition and clean water and sanitation become matters of life and death when children and young adolescents do not have access to them.”5
These essential health services have been further interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which, due to job loss and its economic impact on families, has put already-vulnerable children in Asia at even greater risk of death from infectious diseases worsened by malnutrition.6