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Church keeps Zimbabwe hospitals open


The Revs. Arnold Rhodes and Gary Henderson pass out a fortified beverage in 2007 to children at the ZOE Ministries-supported Mount Makomwe Primary School near Mutare, Zimbabwe. A UMNS file photo by Linda Green.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

Jan. 15, 2009

Amid the public health crisis in Zimbabwe, United Methodist hospitals have remained open.

Nyadire, Old Mutare and Mutambara United Methodist hospitals, along with other separate clinics, continue to treat patients, according to Melissa Crutchfield, head of international disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.


Children attend school at Old Mutare Mission. The mission’s hospital still treats patients, while many of Zimbabwe’s public hospitals have closed.  A UMNS
file photos by Kami Rice.
     

Coordinating its emergency relief efforts through The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and other groups, UMCOR expects to place its own consultant there in late January or early February.

“Our hope is to continue to send needed medicines and supplies as we are able,” Crutchfield told United Methodist News Service in a Jan. 14 interview. “It seems that our initial efforts have been successful.”

The latest assistance from United Methodists includes a donation of enough cholera medicines to treat 80,000 people. The medicines were purchased through a gift to UMCOR’s Zimbabwe emergency appeal from First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas, and ZOE Ministry, a program of the North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference. The Mansfield congregation raised $8,900 as an extra offering at Christmas.

The cholera medicines are being bought and shipped through Children Giving Hope, a faith-based humanitarian agency that has organized such shipments for other organizations. Crutchfield said the kits should be ready soon and can be flown into Zimbabwe, where the church is ready to receive them.

Medicine boxes to arrive

In addition, 35 medicine boxes and more than 14,000 school kits are expected to arrive in Mutare around Feb. 18, to be distributed to United Methodist hospitals, clinics and schools. The boxes contain medicines and supplies for basic primary care, and each box is sufficient to treat a 1,000 people for three months.

Because of the transportation difficulties, the schools currently are closed, which may cause a delay in getting the school kits to children, Crutchfield added.

Along with the cholera kits and medical supplies, UMCOR is helping the three hospitals stay open by providing additional support to the conference to beef up doctor salaries and provide food and fuel.

A major problem is the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, leaving the national currency worthless. In a Jan. 14 e-mail update, United Methodist Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of Zimbabwe confirmed that “everyone is demanding U.S. (dollars) or Southern African rand for goods and services” and very few people have access to such currency.

“The major challenge which our church hospitals are facing is the migration of nurses to neighboring countries in search of ways and means to survive,” he wrote. “To retain them, one must be ready to pay them what is called a retention allowance in foreign currency, which the church does not have.”

Emergency food relief

Other current UMCOR relief efforts in Zimbabwe include the provision of 100 metric tons of a grain mixture and protein porridge. The quantity is enough to provide one daily meal per person for about three months for 1,200 households in 12 United Methodist districts and for 11,000 secondary school students. That food distribution is nearly complete.

ZOE Ministry regularly gives such food aid to schools and extended it to the emergency food relief effort. “We more than doubled what they intended on providing,” Crutchfield said.

Funding for food relief for 235 staff and family members at the denomination’s Africa University in Old Mutare also was to be sent. Food will be distributed monthly over a three-month period.

“We’re in constant communication with our folks on the ground,” Crutchfield said, adding that fuel prices are worked into the distribution budgets for relief supplies. “We can get some things from neighboring countries.”


UMCOR is helping fund food relief for 235 staff and family members at Africa University. A UMNS file photo
by Mike DuBose.
         

UMCOR hopes to complete rehabilitation of the water system at Nyadire Hospital and the surrounding community by the end of February. That was a previously planned project.

The demand for U.S. dollars in Zimbabwe has had a major impact on the church there, Nhiwatiwa said in his update, and the fact that public transportation must be paid in foreign currency has stifled conference operations. In rural areas, “almost everything is at (a) standstill,” he added.

“Although the people continue to do their best by working and continuing to be creative in meeting the challenges, they have indeed reached breaking point,” the bishop declared. “Even as I write, I cannot contemplate how these congregations can support their pastors and themselves as well.

“People are just surviving by the day through the grace of God,” Nhiwatiwa said. “The situation on the ground defies any attempt to plan because circumstances change so fast that we have learned to live on a daily basis.”

General donations to UMCOR’s relief efforts can be made to Zimbabwe Emergency, UMCOR Advance #199456. Gifts to Hospital Revitalization, UMCOR Advance #982168, will specifically support United Methodist hospitals.

Donors can make contributions through local United Methodist churches or mail checks to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance name and number on the check memo line. For credit-card donations, visit UMCOR's Web site at www.umcor.orgfor online giving information or call (800) 554-8583.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

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