Hope for Samuteb Memorial Hospital
By Judith Santiago*
July 6, 2009—Samuteb Memorial Hospital deteriorated significantly during the prolonged war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The absence of water, electricity, lack of essential medicine and medical equipment have made it increasingly more difficult for the hospital to treat sick and injured people.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is helping Samuteb Hospital emerge from the damage caused by the war and is equipping hospital staff to provide quality care for patients in need. Through the purchase of new medical equipment, provision of fresh medicine, reconstruction, hospital staff training, and community education, more lives are being saved and diseases are being prevented.
UMCOR Meets Hospital Needs
As the only health care facility in the rural Kapanga, DRC, Samuteb Memorial Hospital struggled to meet the needs of the impoverished region during the war. Although some support came in from churches in the US and Europe, the hospital could not afford to fuel or maintain its only ambulatory vehicle to transport patients to and from the hospital. With no ambulance, many patients had to travel long distances by foot or bicycle to receive treatment. Pregnant mothers also journeyed far to receive medical attention, placing themselves and their unborn babies at risk. Others chose to stay home to die since the hospital was not medically equipped to help them.
UMCOR reduced the number of patients having to travel by foot by providing Samuteb with a new ambulatory vehicle that brought patients to emergency care and by providing assistance for future maintenance.
In addition to the affects of the war, Samuteb Memorial Hospital experienced other problems, including a breakdown in external funding, a faltering infrastructure and lack of medical equipment, which placed more lives at risk. The small hospital staff worked with whatever little means they had to help those arriving for care. Babies born prematurely were placed in small metal boxes with water bottles to help sustain their lives because the hospital did not have adequate incubators.
UMCOR is helping to revive Samuteb Memorial Hospital by meeting the hospital’s most basic needs and giving it the attention necessary to help serve the Kapanga community. One way UMCOR achieved this was through the purchase of a new ultrasound unit that is enabling Samuteb hospital staff to diagnose patients more accurately and care for more people than they did during the war. The ultrasound unit not only helps diagnose existing health problems, but can detect the beginnings of newly-formed diseases so that medical staff can work toward prevention.
Hospital Rehabilitation Instills Hope
Samuteb Hospital also needed substantial reconstruction following the war. UMCOR assisted the hospital with wall repairs, installation of solar panels, window repairs and more. Protective mosquito nets draped over newly-purchased mattresses are helping to prevent malaria and other diseases. A fresh supply of medicines provided by UMCOR is helping patients get well. Additional work such as plumbing, latrine construction and rehabilitation of the hospital’s water system is currently under development.
“All of our patients are finding hope,” said Dr. Simeon Kashala, a Global Ministries missionary and director of Samuteb Memorial Hospital. ”They are confident and secure because of the comfort the hospital can now provide them.”
Educating Hospital Staff and Communities
Since the beginning of the war, more than five million people died in DRC from violence, hunger and disease. Malnutrition, malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, measles and whooping cough are among the many illnesses afflicting the people of Kapanga.
UMCOR is assisting Samuteb in addressing these health concerns through a community-wide education initiative. HIV/AIDS transfusion safety workshops and prevention education were made available to Samuteb patients and communities at risk.
The Kapanga community learned how to combat malnutrition by incorporating Moringa leaves, a vitamin-rich supplement into their diet and was educated about its many healing benefits. Samuteb’s nurse staff participated in HIV/AIDS training workshops to help treat patients and sensitize communities, raising awareness among those at risk to the deadly disease.
While further improvements are needed in Samuteb, the hospital is caring for patients more successfully. The hospital treats over 290 patients and delivers more than 150 babies each month. Samuteb’s pediatric ward now maintains over 100 patient beds compared to 23 beds during the war.
“We pray God to bless greatly those who support us,” said Dr. Kashala. “We also pray that God will continue to open more doors to our hospital for more resources because the challenges and needs are enormous.”
How You Can Help
UMCOR equips Samuteb Hospital with the essential medicines, medical equipment and supplies to keep the hospital running effectively and to benefit the impoverished Kapanga region which relies heavily on the hospital for survival.
*Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications.