Published February 5, 2021
Catholic Hospital serving humanity in conflict zone where militaries of both nations have clashed
It’s early morning in Samba, a frontier district located in the northern Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir, bordering Pakistan.
Sister Annie, a Catholic nun, is preparing herself for a field visit along with a team of doctors in the region’s innermost hamlets.
The team will inspect villages and conduct free medical checkups for local inhabitants who are mostly unaware about precautions needed for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 41-year-old, who hails from the southern state of Kerala, belongs to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary congregation. For more than a decade Sister Annie has been the administrator of the 24-bed St. Joseph’s Community Hospital in Samba which caters for the region’s poor.
The hospital is located in an area where armies of both India and Pakistan have engaged in military action against each other.
Sister Annie told LiCAS.news she has witnessed people fleeing when the armies have fought and knows how the community is affected.
Sister Anne said the health needs of the people in the area are neglected and that is where St. Joseph’s comes in. Field visits are carried out twice a month, even to very remote areas.
“We encourage these villagers to come to the hospital, get themselves checked and not to take their health for granted,” Sister Annie said.
“There are pregnant women who need proper care but due to a lack of awareness they often endanger their own lives and the life of the newborn,” she said.
As part of its service the hospital also conducts post-pregnancy checkups along with the proper vaccinations for new born children.
“We had earlier noticed that after giving birth to a child, that women care less about their own health and of the newborn,” she said.
“We try to make them understand that the post pregnancy period is as crucial for the mother and child as is during the pregnancy time.”
The nun said that medical follow ups and on-time immunizations have now become a routine in this area wherein few years ago women going to hospital was considered taboo.
‘In service of God’
Father Senoj Thomos, the hospital’s director, said their goal is to make the latest health care facilities available to the poorest.
The area has long been affected by conflict which does not attract medicos from the mainstream and many of the locals are unaware about what modern medicine offers, he said.
“So, they have relied mostly on traditional health practices. Scores of people have died in the past simply because they had no healthcare facility available,” Father Thomos said.
“This hospital is serving humanity without any prejudice and partiality. We have truly dedicated itself in service of the Lord,” he said.
“The hospital has 35 staff members which include doctors and paramedic staff attending more than 100 outdoor patients every day.”
The hospital is run with the support of Jammu and Kashmir’s Catholic Social Service Society and offers physiotherapy, dental care, gynecology, general surgery services plus treatment for tuberculosis which affects many in the area.
“The medicines for tuberculosis are provided absolutely free of cost to the patients along with the routine weekly check-ups,” Father Thomos said.