Missionaries of Charity brothers help Indian state fight TB

Government depends on the brothers to administer medicine and nurture the sick with good food and love
Missionaries of Charity brothers help Indian state fight TB

Barnabas Murmu, Bihari Baski and Joachain Murmu sit inside Milan Ashram, a home run by Missionaries of Charity Brothers in Jharkhand state where they treat people affected by tuberculosis. (Photo by Saji Thomas)

Sitting on the rain soaked veranda of a missionary-run home, the frail 45-year-old Barnabas Murmu looks forward to his "second life" after a tuberculosis (TB) attack nearly killed him.  

He is recuperating at Milan Ashram (house of union): a home for TB patients in Soharpur village in Jharkhand state run by the Missionaries of Charity Brothers,  founded in 1963 by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta 13 years after she began the Missionaries of Charity for nuns to serve the poorest of the poor.

Murmu says he owes his life to the brothers who took care of him when his own relatives ignored and shunned him.

Jharkhand state’s government depends on the brothers to administer medicine to those affected by TB. Most patients need prolonged treatment to recover from the deadly disease that infects the lungs causing people to cough, develop a fever and lose their appetite

Murmu said doctors at the local government hospital suggested he go to Milan Ashram to be administered medicine and eat nutritious food. "I got in touch with the brothers and now I have regained my health and within a month I can leave," said the mineworker.

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Murmu is currently living with 26 patients at the ashram in a remote and backward region. The mostly poor, illiterate people who live here are unable to take medicine regularly or easily access health care, said Brother Ambrose Surin, superior of the home.

The people who come to Milan Ashram are usually referred by government hospitals. Severe infections need six months of treatment along with nutritious food that is too expensive for them to get at home, Brother Surin said.

It’s a partnership between the Catholics and the state. The local government hospital provides free medicine while the brothers care for the patients and feed them during their convalescence.

Bihari Baski, a farmer, is recovering from the disease in the ashram. He said it would have been difficult to recover eating his usual fare.

"We only eat basic rice and lentils, just enough for survival. I would not have lived if I had not come here," said Baski, who has a wife and two children.

Brother Surin said that while they can only help a small number of the total people affected by the disease, he was still happy to be able to save lives.

The home can only accommodate 26 people and "our place is always full and patients are on a waiting list. We cannot allow anyone to overstay as it can cost another valuable life," he said.

The home, founded in 1982, is located on a hill with lush green trees. The natural environment and clean air helps the patients to recover. The home has four staff.

"We also allow the patients to do a bit of gardening, cultivate vegetables and help in the kitchen," Brother Surin said.

As the patients get proper care and love, they become attached to the home and find it difficult to leave, he added.

Joachain Murmu, a farmer, does not want to leave even though he has recovered. "I feel so comfortable here as I get good food and care which I would not usually get at home," he said.

"I will keep visiting this place as it has become my second home," he added.

Tuberculosis is a major health problem in India where 2.2 million of the world’s 9.6 million people TB sufferers live, according to the World Health Organization.  Each year TB kills some 220,000 people in the country.

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