|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
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
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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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