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African school fights malaria with hope, faith


3:00 P.M. EST December 7, 2010 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)

The Rev. Hermance Akpess-Aka.<br/>UMNS photos by Isaac Broune.
The Rev. Hermance Akpess-Aka.
UMNS photos by Isaac Broune.
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Sometimes, it takes a school to conquer malaria.

Berthe Nizié Beugré, 18, knew the horrible toll the disease can take. Four of her 10 siblings died of the disease. She was diagnosed with malaria at age 2, soon after the death of her father.

Poverty and years of ineffective treatment left her on the verge of renal failure that threatened her life.

But God, she and others say, had other plans.

Beugré would find her way to the Cours Secondaire Méthodiste de Cocody, where a community of faith testified, in the words of the secondary school chaplain, to “a God who exists for the poor and for everyone.”

Deadly disease

Lack of knowledge and finances led Berthe’s family to treat her malaria with ineffective tablets. Her health worsened, and in 2007 she was diagnosed with diabetes.

“I could not even walk, and spent more than a week at Treichville Teaching Hospital,” she recalled.

An uncle in the capital city more than 200 kilometers away from her old school took her in. She resumed school at Cours Secondaire Méthodiste de Cocody.

“Being a staunch United Methodist, that’s the place he sends all his children,” she acknowledged. “He wanted me to feel part of the family.”

Although Berthe said nothing about her health, the Rev. Hermance Akpess-Aka, the chaplain, and Bernadette Soro, a welfare assistant, noticed something was wrong.

After counseling and prayers, she told them the truth: She had struggled with malaria since childhood. They realized that it had affected the student’s spleen. The only solution was surgery.

In the middle of the academic year, Berthe had a severe setback. Akpess-Aka informed the administration, who agreed to support the surgery. Then, things got more complicated.

Berthe Nizié Beugré.
Berthe Nizié Beugré.

“Berthe had chronic anemia. She needed 24 A-negative blood platelets, which are very rare. After analysis, the doctors also discovered that apart from diabetes, she was in stage 1 of renal failure. The spleen had led to heart problems, requiring more than a simple surgery.”

A community of faith

Her friends stepped in to help. The students raised more than $4,000 to support the surgery. Besides their own pocket money, they knocked on the doors of local churches seeking funds.

In the forefront were prayers for God to use this sickness to glorify his name in Berthe’s life. Chains of prayers were created to lift up prayers every day at the school.

Thunderous applause greeted Berthe when she came out of the hospital.

Today, Akpess-Aka said, “the problem of renal failure is solved as well as that of the heart. Only an umbilical hernia is looming at the horizon because of the stitches that were quickly removed.”

The experience has left Berthe committed to her dream of becoming a doctor.

“What I have been through reinforces my dream of becoming a medical doctor to help people diagnose at an early age their sickness and alleviate their suffering because a lot of people supported me,” she said.

Apkess-Aka said it is also a lesson in relying on the grace of the Lord.

“My God,” the chaplain said, “will go beyond our expectations by providing excellent health for Berthe’s life to be a testimony of the existence and power of God in the lives of men.”

*Broune is a United Methodist communicator based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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