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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Democratic Republic of Congo: ‘Our Hospital Is Back!’

Last week, a large donation of medical supplies that HOPE International Development Agency procured for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived after an arduous journey over land, sea, and (most obstructive of all) national boundaries. This process of delivering critical supplies to deserving communities illustrated two things. First, it demonstrated just how intense the challenges are for Congolese men and women working for the good of their people. Secondly, it evidenced just how severe the need for this work is.

A list of the bureaucratic hurdles that must be overcome in order to get live-saving supplies to villages in dire need does not make for entertaining prose. Suffice it to say, it is long, complex, and occasionally quite discouraging. But the outcome, once these hurdles are cleared, is pure joy.

HOPE’s representative Mossai Sanguma was present when the shipment arrived in the city of Karawa. He said that it was an amazing moment – people lined the streets as the cargo arrived. The whole city was energized. Many were exclaiming, “Our hospital is back!”

Their excitement was a reflection of their lack. For about a year there have been little or no medical resources available to medical staff in the hospitals and clinics of the northwestern Congo. In these conditions, people do not bother taking the time to visit their doctor. The care they might receive is not worth the walk. A medical system that might be serving people is rendered totally ineffectual—hospitals become little more than buildings. This donation is seen and felt as a bit of a revival, a blood transfusion for a weak and depleted system.

Some of the supplies will be used in the hospital at Karawa, where there is adequate storage and a pharmacy. Karawa is also a processing point, as the bulk of the HOPE donation is intended to be distributed to four health zones through out the northwestern district – to Loko, Watsolo, Dumba, and Bukada, and the approximate 100 rural clinics located in these zones.

The donation, in the end, filled two forty foot containers. This is a large gift, but in the grand scheme of things, it is touchingly finite, truly small-scale. The DRC, after all, has a population of 65 million. But even this humble modicum of assistance is linked to serious obstacles—and a spirit of gratitude that is even more sobering.

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