Church helps remote villagers fight malaria

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The United Methodist Church in the Congo has built a new medical center to help fight against malaria in the remote Okasa village in the Kibombo District.


The center, built within the framework of the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria program, is an immediate response to the difficulties faced by thousands of people in more than 16 villages in the surrounding area.


Before the center’s construction, more than 6,700 people traveled nearly 17 miles to get treatment in the city of Kibombo. Sometimes, patients died or their condition worsened because they had no medical facilities nearby.

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda cuts the ribbon during the inauguration of the new medical center in Okasa village. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UMNS

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda cuts the ribbon during the inauguration of the new medical center in Okasa village. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UMNS.

Eastern Congo Episcopal Area Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda dedicated the center in August. It includes 11 rooms and a terrace.


The bishop noted that since its birth in the 18th century, The United Methodist Church and its predecessors have been concerned about public, social and spiritual health. He said ignorance is the biggest enemy of a healthy body.


Since 2010, the church has focused on reducing malaria-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa through its Imagine No Malaria initiative, which is now part of the Abundant Health program of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.


In terms of building a health infrastructure to combat malaria effectively, The United Methodist Church in eastern Congo is committed to making available one or two newly constructed and well-equipped buildings to rural people each year, Unda said.


“With this in mind,” he said, “as part of the Imagine No Malaria program, we built modern medical facilities in Baraka in the Kivu Annual Conference, in Opala in the Oriental and Equator Annual Conference and in Okasa in the East Congo Annual Conference. This health policy will enable the church to play its role as a full partner of the state.”


Several political officials of the region participated in the inaugural ceremony for the Okasa Medical Center, which is located about 87 miles from Kindu. The bishop urged the administration of health care to respect the law of the state, which is binding on all medical professionals, and to respect medical ethics to render credible services.


Unda also called on the community to protect the building. “We invite all local people to make a commitment to protect this social heritage that is a common good for the vital community health because collective social progress depends on it,” he said.


How to help

To support Imagine No Malaria projects and other programs through Abundant Health, please give to Advance No. 3021770.

The United Methodist Church is a long-standing health partner of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For six years, as part of the battle against malaria, the church’s health coordination department has organized several activities.


“The interventions we have carried out in the fight against malaria in eastern DRC are in the curative and preventive,” said Dr. Philippe Okonda, technical assistant for health coordination.


Okonda said The United Methodist Church intervened in 2013-14 in the mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.


“The church continues to supply its medical facilities with mosquito nets for routine distribution, that is to say (for) pregnant women who come for consultation and children who come for (postnatal) consultations,” he explained.


The United Methodist Church encourages behavioral changes to prevent malaria.


“We sensitize local communities to clean up their environments to stop the multiplication of mosquitoes,” Okonda said.


The denomination also is involved in patient care by supplying drugs to medical facilities, training health care staff for capacity building and rehabilitating medical buildings so that malaria patients have improved access to a correct diagnosis.


A 2017-18 report presented to the East Congo Conference stated, “During this ecclesiastical year, 16 service providers were trained on the management of malaria.” This included nurses from Okasa, Osio and Manjengo, and lab assistants from Tunda, Mangobo and Irambo.


Londe is a communicator for the East Congo Conference. Philippe Kituka Lolonga contributed to this report.


News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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