The United Methodist Church in Congo is helping make medical treatment more affordable for the country’s most vulnerable.
The Vulnerable Association of Savings and Credit helps members pay lower costs at United Methodist hospitals and encourages self-sufficiency.
A group of United Methodist hospitals started the savings and credit organization in 2018 to assist those living in poverty with medical treatment. It requires members to contribute a lump sum or agree to invest a set amount for at least six months, said Kanku Mubuto, a vice president of the Vulnerable Association of Savings and Credit in Bukavu.
After six months, members start to benefit. When there is a need for hospital care, the savings and credit institution pays half of the bill. The members also begin earning interest on their money. The association will provide microloans to help members start small businesses, such as selling fish, corn flour, tomatoes, sugar or embers for cooking.
There are five credit offices set up at health centers and hospitals operated by The United Methodist Church.
Already, the United Methodist model is generating imitators, said Dr. Damba André, who practices at the Amani Health Center run by Pentecostal churches in Bukavu.
“It is a good initiative that the hospitals of The (United) Methodist Church started here in Bukavu, and … we have just imitated this initiative,” he said.
Solange Cabwene, a mother of two, brought her children to the United Methodist Irambo Health Center in Bukavu for treatment for malnutrition.
“During the care of my children, the nurses (helped) me to join the Vulnerable Association of Savings and Credit,” Cabwene said. “This helped me because the association gave me a credit (loan) and today I start selling embers, and my two children (will) not relapse.
“I thank the Methodist hospital for the care and guidance.”
There are more than 200 members of the Savings and Credit at Majengo United Methodist Health Center in Goma, said Beatrice Anunga, cashier at the center.
“The teams of the association (recruit) the inhabitants to join this group,” Anunga said. “Because (it) will help them in their daily life after six months of membership.”
There are plans to expand the client base of the Vulnerable Association of Savings and Credit in Goma to help the poor who live in the nearby villages, said Eric Lubantu, president of the Goma association.
Dr. Marie Claire Manafundu, supervisor of the Maternal and Child Health Program in East Congo and wife of Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, encourages the initiative.
“In view of the growing number of malnourished children, and as more of the children are relapsing, this association comes to help these households, because once they join they will have good continuity in health,” she said.
Kituka Lolonga is a communicator in the Kivu Conference.
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