Friday 21 June 2019

US pastor runs network giving 50,000 Ugandans bleach-based 'miracle cure'

Screengrab of a video showing Sam Little doing his trial of MMS in Uganda.


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An American pastor reportedly gave ‘miracle water’ to Ugandans. It was bleach.

An American pastor has been accused of distributing a poisonous “miracle drink” to thousands of Ugandans, including infants, according to a report by the Guardian.
Robert Baldwin — founder of a Christian nonprofit based in New Jersey — was providing a bogus “miracle cure” to almost 50,000 Ugandans, according to the outlet’s original reporting. In conjunction with Sam Little, a supposed British clairvoyant, Baldwin was promoting the substance as a cure for many diseases, including cancer, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The cure? Known as “miracle mineral solution,” or MMS, the substance consists of sodium chlorite and citric acid, which combine to create chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach. The U.S. Embassy in Kampala on Monday condemned the distribution of the substance.
In an interview with NJ Advance Media, Baldwin denied distributing the “cure” and said he had to shut down his operations because of the hate coming his way.

The pastor, who does not appear to be affiliated with a church, disabled his social media accounts and his website, Global Healing Christian Missions. He could not be reached by The Washington Post.
Baldwin, who is not a medical practitioner, trained roughly 1,200 Ugandan clerics to administer the “miracle cure,” and they then gave the concoction to members of their congregations, the Guardian wrote. The news organization also contends that the drink was given to infants as young as 14 months old.

“America and Europe have much stricter laws so you are not as free to treat people because it is so controlled by the FDA. That’s why I work in developing countries,” Baldwin said, according to the Guardian.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public warning against MMS in 2010, when the promotion of the purported health benefits of the drink were spreading in the United States. The FDA urged people who had MMS to “stop using it immediately and throw it away.”

Reports of health injuries after the use of the product included severe nausea, vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration, according to the FDA’s warning. MMS has been banned in Canada and Ireland.

Baldwin acknowledged he did not want to draw attention to his use of MMS, according to the Guardian. “You have to do it low key. That’s why I set it up through the church,” he said.
At least one expert in Christian missions said organizations such as Baldwin’s should not be confused with legitimate outreach.

“This is not missionary work,” said Jonathan Bonk, director of the Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Bonk, who grew up in Ethiopia, is a research professor of mission at Boston University. He said roughly 85 percent of Ugandans are Christian, many of them devout.

Operations like Baldwin’s often promote themselves as missionary work because it plays better to American supporters, Bonk said. “America has a long tradition of believing they have a lot to offer the world,” he said. “It gives it a kind of legitimacy. They can show pictures of fairly extreme situations to register potential donors.”

But Bonk warns that most of these organizations, like Baldwin’s, are bogus.
“These are really, really poor people who are sick, and they believe they’re going to get better,” Bonk said. “Where people are desperate for medical care, they place their faith in miracles.”
Stephen Barrett, a retired psychologist, has operated a website tracking health-related fraud since 1997. He wrote about the dangerous effects of MMS in 2016.

“The world isn’t well equipped to handle people who insist on selling worthless products,” Barrett said. He said consumer protections against harmful health products should be prioritized and that the FDA should take proactive action against people who promote them.
“It’s up to the Ugandan government to stop it now,” Barrett said.
In a tweet published Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda said it was aware of an American pastor providing MMS to churches in Uganda.

“We strongly condemn the distribution of this substance, which is extremely dangerous and is NOT a cure for any disease,” the tweet read.

Fiona O’Leary, who has been campaigning against illegitimate medicine and MMS for six years, said Baldwin and others show up in Uganda with “the Bible in one hand and bleach in the other.”
O’Leary, who recorded a phone conversation with Baldwin that was excerpted in the Guardian article, said she wants him prosecuted. “They go to third-world countries because they know they can get away with it,” she said.

Bonk says wanting to believe in miracle cures is not unique to one country or one group of people. “As humans, we are a gullible species,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Jonathan Bonk was executive director of Overseas Ministries Study Center, which is at Yale. Bonk previously was with the center, but is now a research professor of mission at Boston University.



US pastor runs network giving 50,000 Ugandans bleach-based 'miracle cure'

Revealed: group led by Robert Baldwin and part-funded by Sam Little claims toxic fluid will eradicate HIV/Aids and other diseases

Screengrab of a video showing Sam Little doing his trial of MMS in Uganda.
Screengrab of a video showing Sam Little doing his trial of MMS in Uganda.

An American pastor from New Jersey backed by a British former clairvoyant is running a network that gives up to 50,000 Ugandans a “miracle cure” made from industrial bleach, claiming drinking the toxic fluid eradicates cancer, HIV/Aids, malaria and most other diseases.

The network, led by pastor Robert Baldwin and part-funded by Sam Little from Arlesey in Bedfordshire, is one of the most extensive efforts yet to distribute the “miracle cure” known as MMS, or “miracle mineral solution”. The Guardian has learned that poor Ugandans, including infants as young as 14 months old, are being given chlorine dioxide, a product that has no known health benefit and can be extremely dangerous.

Baldwin, 52, is importing bulk shipments of the components of MMS, sodium chlorite and citric acid, into Uganda from China. The two chemicals are mixed to produce chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach used in the textile industry.

The American pastor has “trained” about 1,200 clerics in Uganda on administering the “miracle cure” and each in turn uses it to treat about 50 congregants, usually after Sunday service. As an inducement, Baldwin is offering smartphones to those clerics who are especially “committed” to spreading the bleach cure.

Baldwin operates under a ministry he founded called Global Healing. The “church” advertises itself as “using the power of Almighty God … to greatly reduce the loss of life” in Africa.
Yet in a phone conversation with Fiona O’Leary, a campaigner against quack medicine who spoke to him while posing as a freelance journalist, Baldwin said he distributed the bleach through churches to “stay under the radar”.

“We don’t want to draw any attention,” he said during the call, a recording of which has been heard by the Guardian. “When you draw attention to MMS you run the risk of getting in trouble with the government or drug companies. You have to do it low key. That’s why I set it up through the church.”
He added that as a further precaution he uses euphemisms on Facebook, where he raises money through online donations. “I don’t call it MMS, I call it ‘healing water’, to protect myself. They are very sophisticated. Facebook has algorithms that can recognize ‘MMS’.”

Baldwin, who trained as a student nurse and is understood to have no other medical expertise, said he chose Uganda because it was a poor country with weak regulation. Speaking from New Jersey, where he is based, he told O’Leary: “America and Europe have much stricter laws so you are not as free to treat people because it is so controlled by the FDA. That’s why I work in developing countries.”
He added: “Those people in poor countries they don’t have the options that we have in the richer countries – they are much more open to receiving the blessings that God has given them.”
Asked how babies and children were treated with MMS, he said the dose was reduced by half. “Little tiny infants can take a small amount, they will spit it out. It causes no harm – they just get diarrhea.”

The Guardian contacted Baldwin by phone in New Jersey and asked the pastor to explain his work in Uganda. He said: “We use natural healing therapies to help people – that’s something Christians do.”
Then he said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to be talking to the media right now.”
Asked what doses of bleach he was using in Africa, he abruptly ended the call.

‘Sam’s orphanage’

MMS is banned in several countries, including Canada and Ireland. In the UK and US it is strictly controlled and has led to fraud prosecutions.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a public warning that advises anyone with MMS to “stop using it immediately and throw it away”. Several people have been sickened by the chemical, the FDA says, suffering nausea, diarrhea and potentially “life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration”.

Baldwin’s growing MMS network in Uganda appears to involve the distribution of the bleach free of charge. It is not clear how the money is raised to pay for it. There are fundraising pages on Facebook, though the sums of money donated seem small.
The MMS push has been partly bankrolled by Sam Little. Aged 25, the Briton is currently based in Fort Portal, in the west of Uganda, where the Guardian spoke to him via cellphone.
According to his Facebook page, Little attended Staffordshire University before setting up as a clairvoyant with a business that is now defunct called Psychic Sam. Facebook posts from 2015 show him offering Tarot card readings, “healings” and “regression therapy” for £6.99 ($8.90).
He told the Guardian he also made money through “investments” and was using his savings to help fund MMS distribution in Uganda with a donation of $10,000. Separately, he has also put $30,000 into building a home for about 20 homeless Ugandan children.
He calls the home “Sam’s orphanage” on Facebook, where he is attempting to raise money through donations to complete the building. He said that project was a separate venture from his work with the bleach treatment and he insisted he had no intention of treating the children in his orphanage with MMS.

Screengrab of a video showing Sam Little doing his trial of MMS in Uganda.

Screengrab of a video showing Sam Little doing his trial of MMS in Uganda. Photograph: Video of Sam Little's MMS trial
Little was first introduced to the “miracle cure” in England by a friend.
“Somebody in my family was cured of cancer with MMS,” he said. “I started researching online and saw more and more videos of people being cured. That’s when I decided to test it myself on malaria and travelled to Africa.”
Little has posted a video online of a trip he made on 11 March to a village hospital in Kyenjojo district, in western Uganda, where he conducted a trial that he said would prove malaria could be cured with chlorine dioxide within two hours. Though he has no medical training, the Briton is seen on the video instructing workers in a tiny local hospital to administer the bleach according to the formula: 18 drops for adults, 12 drops for children aged five to 12 and eight drops for children aged one to four.
The video shows nine people being given two doses of the fluid, including a baby aged about 14 months who screams in his mother’s arms as he imbibes it. Little claims blood tests conducted by a lab technician showed microscopic signs of malaria disappearing within two hours.
The Briton told the Guardian a lab technician had looked at blood samples from the nine local people being tested and said they had been cured. Little himself has not been back to the hospital to verify the results.
He told the Guardian he was repeating the study on HIV/Aids patients in several locations in Uganda, to prove that MMS was also a cure for that disease. He admitted he would not be allowed to conduct such “field studies” in the UK or US, but when asked whether he was using poor Ugandans as guinea pigs he replied he was not doing any of this for money but purely out of altruistic motives.
“It’s not using people as guinea pigs for trials,” he said, “it’s helping them. We’ve cured loads of people not just for malaria, cancer, HIV, all sorts of things.”
Asked to cite any scientific evidence that MMS cured diseases, he pointed to a 2018 study in which chlorine dioxide was tested on 500 malarial patients in Cameroon. The lead author of the study was Enno Freye of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The Guardian contacted the university and was told its medical faculty had reviewed the study and found it “scientifically worthless, contradictory and in part ethically problematic”. In February, Freye was stripped of his title of Apl-Professor of the faculty on grounds that he had “severely damaged the respectability and trust this title requires”. He no longer works at any institution of the university.
The Guardian attempted to contact Freye for comment but did not immediately hear back.
The Uganda ministry of health was alarmed to hear about the MMS trials, saying it had no information about chlorine dioxide being tested in Ugandan hospitals. Emmanuel Ainebyoona, a spokesman for the ministry, said a government investigation had been initiated.
“We are investigating these people’s activities. In the medical profession, you don’t do advertising when you heal people,” he said, referring to Little’s video in which he claims to have cured malaria in two hours.
The Ugandan ministry of gender and social development, which vets and approves all new orphanages, said it was also launching an inquiry into Little’s plans for a home for 20 children.
“We have never received documents from Fort Portal showing the need for an orphanage,” a senior official said. “That is new information to us.”