Creating Portable Pharmacies in South America

By Natalie Sarrett

In one South American country, residents must travel to neighboring nations in order to receive proper medical care. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people couldn’t afford to take a trip like that—let alone pay for the treatment they would need.

Heartbroken by the situation, one of our Send Relief partners started brainstorming ways to get people of this country the healthcare they need and decided to try sending small shipments of medicine to local pastors. These pastors would then distribute them to those in need of supplies.

Having valuable medications stolen or misappropriated was a major concern, so Send Relief partnered with locals to ensure the safe delivery of the health packages. This collaborative effort has been successfully getting medicine to families in need since September of 2019! Since that time, more than 120 boxes and 11,000 pounds of medical necessities have been safely delivered to over 17 cities in this developing country.

Medicines are first distributed to local churches and the pastors who requested them followed by under-served families in the surrounding communities. Doctors are present at each distribution event to guarantee that families receive proper instructions on how to take the medicine, and volunteers share a gospel presentation with the recipients as they wait. Several doctors and nurses have come to faith because of the Good News being shared in word and deed through our partners’ work.

But that was then. Now, five out of the seven distribution clinics have been shut down because of COVID-19, and the pandemic has delayed shipments’ arrival times, putting families who need immediate assistance at risk. Lack of gasoline has proved to be the greatest difficulty during lockdown, as medicine must now be individually hand-delivered.

Our Send Relief partners have now resorted to transporting medicine by foot, walking to each family’s home. These portable pharmacies contain much-needed pills like antibiotics, blood pressure and diabetes medications, antiparasitics, antimalarial drugs and many more. Because it is mostly Send Relief partners, pastors, and local church staff making deliveries, many meaningful relationships are being formed as they take the time to speak with each family about how they are doing in quarantine and if there are any other ways they can help. One partner shared the ultimate purpose of these trips: “The goal is to glorify God…period.”

One clinic staff member who accepted Christ during a distribution invited her husband, who is also a doctor, to come and offer his services. He was extremely skeptical of the operation and made it clear that he was specifically wary of the religious members of the clinic. Then, on one particularly moving delivery to a family in need, he too received Christ and now works weekly shifts at the clinic.

God is at work in the hearts and minds of these clinic workers!

Pray for resilience for the people of this nation during lockdown, as well as for our partners—that they will continue to be able to bring healthcare to families in need and overcome the many challenges that lay ahead.

Published June 20, 2020