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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has changed our lives. A totally unexpected pandemic appeared in the city of Wuhan in China. And now, due to its high transmissibility, many of the countries have decided to isolate or strictly confine their populations, to prevent further spread of the disease.

We highlight three areas of uncertainty and major impact the illness is creating:

1. The impact the illness is having on the population’s health, plus limited understanding of the disease, are generating doubts and unknowns for medical staff, and especially the general population.

2. Quarantine and isolation are changing people’s quality of life. Many people are showing symptoms of emotional disorders: such as anxiety, distress, depression, panic and fears about a future that is still uncertain.

3. The pandemic is producing just as concerning economic repercussions. A loss of work and jobs, greater pressure on governments to provide unemployment benefits, a decrease in financial income, the impact on the macroeconomy of most countries, a decrease in domestic consumption and a drop in exports, to name just a few issues. We are already in the biggest global economic recession of the last 100 years.

As national Christian medical associations we ask ourselves, ‘What can we do?’ Can we do anything?’ Although at times we feel that it is just one drop in an ocean of need: we reply ‘Yes, at least we can do something!’

So, what can be done?

With the aim of providing greater welfare to people, ACUPS Uruguay (Uruguayan Christian Association of Health Professionals) has created an online telephone assistance service for the community, with the purpose of answering questions relating to health, emotional disorders and difficulties with financial management.

How is this done in practice?

The Association’s steering committee has invited its medical and specialist members in different areas to join their efforts in organizing a Crisis Guidance System through WhatsApp.

People with doubts and questions in three specific areas (medical issues, psychological issues and finance) can send a message to an ACUPS WhatsApp phone. A secretary receives each of the messages that come from the community and then ACUPS provides them with free contact with a professional volunteer from the association, according to the needs of the person. Then they contact each other and have a phone appointment where they can share their questions and doubts.

Testimonies and initial experiences of the service

We are promoting the service to different WhatsApp groups. Church pastors have asked us if this service also includes non-Christian people. We answered yes.

The service is open to everyone, and can be an opportunity to share the hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us. One person has written to us, saying they were ‘seeking guidance for an alcoholic, and ACUPS provided an opportunity where they could receive help’.

This week, the Crisis Guidance System has been started, and has received calls from patients suffering with loneliness, panic attacks and family life related difficulties during quarantine.

Conclusions

We understand the great opportunities for service Christian health professionals can give through our national associations. For this reason, in each of our countries and groups, we highly encourage creative initiatives to offer help and service.

This is not the time to save our talents, but rather to invest them in the Kingdom of God. Matthew 25:14-30 highlights this in the Parable of the Talents. It is time not to be afraid or hide our abilities and talents. It is time to give ourselves once more into the hands of God and invest and develop all those capacities that God has given us for the extension of the kingdom of God and the blessing of our neighbour. So let it be.


Jorge Patpatian is ICMDA Regional Secretary for South America

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