With the region around Nebobongo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) suffering from extreme poverty, some level of malnutrition can be expected. However, when we were alerted for the first time in December, 2015 that the hospital was seeing an increasing number of children admitted with extreme malnutrition resulting in death, the severity of the situation became clear. With the death of 99% of the region’s livestock through an epidemic several years back and the shrinking value of money due to political instability, this issue became very troubling to hospital staff. They felt helpless to do anything about it since they lacked financial resources to mount a meaningful intervention without jeopardizing core hospital functions. “Our greatest concern has always been for the children; but due to a lack of means our marginal efforts have really been insignificant.” -Dr. Christine Bataneni, pediatrician.
In January of 2016, we sent Dr. Christine and a few nurses to a Christian hospital 300 miles away that is backed by Samaritan’s Purse. Here, the Nebobongo staff observed and replicated the successful malnutrition program already in place there. With our support and your gifts, this new team opened the Center for Education and Nutrition at Nebobongo Hospital in February of 2016.
Currently the center has two programs:
Hospital ward for acutely malnourished (starving) children: Children that are diagnosed as acutely malnourished are admitted to the hospital for a three-week stay. During this time, the kids are fed a high-nutrient diet consisting heavily of peanut butter and soy flour with other vegetables. Also, the family receives counseling from staff including from the hospital chaplain on proper nutrition and issues that are keeping the family from having food. A major goal is to prevent this situation from occurring again.
Outpatient program for chronically malnourished (nutrient deficient) children: Children that are chronically malnourished attend a weekly program on Wednesdays where they receive a high-nutrient meal. The program starts out each Wednesday with devotion and prayer time and then an educational component. The food is distributed at the end of the program. The families receive nutrition training and are sent home with soy flour to use though out the week. This should prevent the kids from becoming acute and equip the parents to understand how to properly feed their families.
Eventually, a third program will be started at the center that will send an agricultural education team to area villages to teach better farming practices and distribute new seed varieties that will encourage a healthy diet.
Since the program launch in 2016, hundreds of children have gone through the program, many whom would have died without it. We have financed the program out of our general fund, support from Faith Alliance Church in Ohio and a handful of individual donors. This program and the ongoing issue of malnutrition in the region are not going away any time soon. Malnutrition in DRC is on the rise as the economy continues to flounder and parts of the country face instability. Nationally the childhood malnutrition rate is well over 40% according to the World Food Program.
An important secondary impact of this program is the flow of program funds into the local economy. As of June, 2017, all the funds sent to Nebobongo remain in the local economy now that a milling machine supplied by E4 Project has been installed. This machine allows for corn and soybeans for the program to be bought from impoverished farmers nearby and processed into flour on site at the hospital.
Since the program will be needed for at least the next few years we are looking to transition it to a sponsorship program similar to our Hope House Sponsorship program in Gabon. We are looking for sponsors to sign up for a recurring monthly donation to ensure this program is sustainable. Sponsors will receive regular updates on the program via email along with photos and stories about children aided by the program, not available to the public.
What your sponsorship will help provide:
- Salaries for the nursing staff and a cook to support the inpatient and outpatient program.
- Food for the children admitted for acute malnutrition.
- Locally sourced corn and soybean meal for the outpatient program.
With all the pain and suffering in the world it is easy to become overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. While the needs are great, this sponsorship program is a concrete way to intervene in the lives of families living on the brink of an avoidable tragedy. You will save lives on a monthly basis as we have already witnessed through the program.