Delivering Hope to The Congo
KINSHASA, Feb. 6, 2008—A diverse coalition of organizations have come together to provide medicines worth up to $14 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The efforts of Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Mo.; The United Methodist Church of North Katanga; Islamic Relief USA; United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR); and Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) will bring the supplies through two shipments to Kinshasa. The first and largest shipment arrived Feb. 2. UMCOR extends its sincere appreciation to the United States Department of Defense and American Embassy Kinshasa for facilitating this shipment.
This airlift is the culmination of the efforts of Dr. Pamela Couture, Vice President and Dean at Saint Paul School of Theology. Dr. Couture has been working in the North Katanga area to document oral history surrounding the peace building efforts following the Second Congolese War. Her close work with Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda of the North Katanga Conference of the United Methodist Church led her to seek a way to give back to the area. United Methodist hospitals in the Episcopal areas of Central Congo, North Katanga and South Congo will be the primary recipients of the medicines as well as additional hospitals and clinics that are in need of assistance.
Prior to her departure to DR Congo, Dr. Couture discussed her desire to bring assistance to the Katanga region with the Rev. James Glass, Vice President for Development at Saint Paul. The Rev. Glass was successful in finding a non-governmental organization willing and able to donate medicine that would specifically benefit not only the Katanga region, but to the Democratic Republic of Congo in general.
Building Relationships to Meet Needs
Islamic Relief USA has kindly offered to fund this project and coordinate air transport of medicines that treat infections, malaria, anemia and other illnesses common in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Saint Paul and Islamic Relief USA turned to UMCOR to receive, transport and distribute the medicines in conjunction with the United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UMCOR is working with IMA, which has an extensive health network in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to distribute the medicine.
“UMCOR’s mandate is to alleviate human suffering throughout the world,” said the Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s top executive. “This shipment of medicines will certainly bring relief to many.”
Dr. Myron McCoy, President of Saint Paul School of Theology, Dr. Couture, Bishop Ntambo, Rev. Glass, and Rev. Dixon gathered in Kinshasa January 28 to celebrate this gift to the DR Congo. The reception was well attended by religious as well as government leaders. Another celebration followed the next day in Lubumbashi with leaders of the Katanga region of Congo.
Witnesses to the Need
Rev. Dixon, Dr. Couture, Rev. Glass and others toured three hospitals in Lubumbashi to better understand the challenges health professionals face in the Congo. They listened as the pharmacist of one hospital pointed to the empty shelves and said that she receives prescriptions every day that she cannot fill because the medicines are simply unavailable.
UMCOR’s long-standing commitment to serve vulnerable people without regard to race or religion as well as the organization’s history of development in the Congo led Saint Paul to involve UMCOR in the project.
UMCOR in DR Congo
UMCOR has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1999 through its non-governmental organization to assist the Katanga region, an area heavily impacted by war. UMCOR’s current programs involved agricultural assistance for 15,000 farmers, a microfinance program that helps 7,000 small businesses and a girl’s scholarship and mentoring program that benefits more than 2,000 students. The United Methodist Church has a long history in the region.