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Joint effort brings medicines to the Congo

United Methodist leaders tour the pharmacy of Lumbumbashi Hospital in Sendwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, where medical supplies are badly needed.
A UMNS Web-only photo courtesy of the Rev. Pamela Couture.

By Michelle Scott*
Feb. 7, 2008 | KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS)

A diverse coalition of organizations have come together to provide medicines worth up to $14 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rev. Pamela Couture


The first and largest shipment of medicines arrived Feb. 2 in Kinshasa through a cooperative effort by Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Mo.; The United Methodist Church of North Katanga; Islamic Relief USA; the United Methodist Committee on Relief; and Interchurch Medical Assistance.

The U.S. Department of Defense and American Embassy in Kinshasa facilitated the shipment. A second shipment is planned.

The idea for the donations originated with the Rev. Pamela Couture, vice president and dean at Saint Paul School of Theology. Couture has been working in the North Katanga area to document oral history surrounding peace building efforts following the Second Congolese War. In the process, she formed a close relationship with Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda of the Congo Area.

United Methodist hospitals in the Central Congo, North Katanga and South Congo areas will be the primary recipients of the medicines, as well as other hospitals and clinics in need.

Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda


The Rev. James Glass, vice president for development at Saint Paul, successfully found a non-governmental organization to donate medicine to benefit not only the Katanga region, but also the Congo in general.

Coordinating transport

Islamic Relief USA offered to fund the project and coordinate air transport of medicines that treat infections, malaria, anemia and other illnesses common in the 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 Congo. UMCOR is working with Interchurch Medical Assistance, which has an extensive health network in the central African nation, 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."

The Rev. Myron McCoy, president of Saint Paul School of Theology, joined Couture, Ntambo, Glass and Dixon in Kinshasa on Jan. 28 to celebrate the airlift. The reception was attended by both religious and government leaders. Another celebration followed the next day in Lubumbashi with leaders of the Katanga region.

A tour of three hospitals in the Congo demonstrated the need for the medicines. One hospital pharmacist pointed to the empty shelves and said she receives prescriptions every day that she cannot fill because the medicines are simply unavailable.

UMCOR has worked in the Congo since 1999 through its non-governmental organization to assist the Katanga region, an area heavily impacted by war.

The agency’s current programs there include 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.

*Scott is director of communications for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

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

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Saint Paul School of Theology


Interchurch Medical Assistance

Islamic Relief USA

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