Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why the Church is Visible in the Midst of Cholera

By Rev. Betty Kazadi Musau*

There has been an urgent response and action taken in Bukama Health Zone in Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo, since cholera was reported in the region in February 2014. The church has supported the government’s effort to create a space for cholera treatment in Bukama, which is located along the Congo River. The church, through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), decided to be present at the local level to heal and save lives. It responded by being visible. To be effective in healthcare, it rehabilitated the cholera treatment center that will accommodate not only Bukama residents but also those who come to Bukama from surrounding villages to work at their small businesses.

 Odette Malondo, former nurse and midwife, recalls the dire situation of cholera patients before the Cholera Treatment Center was rehabilitated. Photo credit: Betty Kazadi Musau

Ready to light the household fire and prepare lunch, Odette Malondo looked at the people coming towards her. Her house is located close to the Cholera Treatment Center. Odette works at the central office as a cleaner, but for 35 years, she was a midwife and nurse at Bukama General Hospital.
“I can say that the new Cholera Treatment Center is really a space of grace,” she says. Last year, before it was rehabilitated, she recalls, “patients were sleeping on the ground in tents when getting cholera treatment, but now this center is a safe space not only for patients but also for me. Cholera outbreak does not choose patients—even I can fall sick,” she says.

Malondo remembers how the tents were resistant to damage for an entire year, but later gave in during the rainy season, when they oozed water with the slightest breeze. “They got torn as we continued to admit cholera patients. Within those tents, I could see children and women dying in front of me. [The new center] is an opportunity for patients to be valued and get well quickly,” she says. “This center with beds, curtains, mattresses and buckets will help not only cholera patients but also me as a former midwife and a cleaner now at the administrative office. The CTC structure now holds the beauty of the hospital.”

It is a well-designed structure for urgent response for patients as they will sleep on beds, within a permanent building with doors, beds and bed sheets, a functioning water system, an incinerator and functioning and clean latrines. The building’s rooms are assigned according to gender and age.

Malondo comments, “We are happy to see beds and the bed sheets that cover them. I can picture cholera patients in this clean place with curtains, with nurses and medical doctors, and I am sure that all this will reduce cholera deaths.”

Dr. Ngoie Manyamba comments that Bukama has never had a space so well-equipped for cholera treatment over the past ten years. “The space is quite assuring, even to patients, and facilitates healing,” he says. “We were abandoned, and no one thought of rehabilitating an old building to provide a suitable space to treat cholera cases, and people were simply treated in tents on the grounds of Bukama General Hospital. Now, medical staff in Bukama can speak up and thank the church that, through UMCOR, is saving lives in Bukama.”

“This equipped center is an unforgettable legacy. May God bless the donors,” Malondo says. “Within this center, you see healing on the way, and lives will be saved.”

This year UMCOR celebrates 75 years of being with those in need. UMCOR’s country office in DRC was instrumental in the rehabilitation of the Cholera Treatment Center, having coordinated and managed funds, procured and transported building materials, and hired the company that did the rehabilitation work, in partnership with Bukama General Hospital.

Katanga is currently experiencing a new cholera outbreak since the start of the new year, affecting 16 of 68 health zones in the province. UMCOR’s International Disaster Response unit, Advance #982450, has provided funds to help meet the challenge.

Your gift to Congo (DRC) Development Projects, Advance #198400, will support UMCOR’s ongoing work with the Congolese people.

*Rev. Betty Kazadi Musau chairs the North Katanga Health Board of the North Katanga Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.