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Angolan children die without pediatric surgeon

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A barefoot girl caries a water bucket alongside an open sewer next door to the Icolo e Bengo United Methodist Church in Luanda.
Oct. 6, 2006

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

MALANJE, Angola (UMNS) -- Sitting on the couch in the living room of Bishop Jose and Dr. Laurinda Vidal Quipungo, the Rev. R. Randy Day listens closely as the couple describe the needs in their country.

Dr. Quipungo softly starts talking about a child that had died of complications from malaria the day before.

She says the child's death was complicated by the need to give him a blood transfusion and oxygen.

"Here in Malanje, we don't have a national surgeon," she says. "The doctors and surgeons we have here are all foreigners who tend to be general, not pediatric specialists." She says a pediatric surgeon would have been able to cut into the child's arm and get to a deeper vein. "It was very hard to find a vein in his small arm.

"One of our short-term needs would be to help train some people even as nurses who have some pediatric training so when we find situations like this they would know what to do."

Day asks if a retired pediatric surgeon who could devote three years or more to the hospital would be beneficial. She replies, "Yes, very."

Critical needs

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A worried mother watches over her child, who is sick with malaria, at the provincial hospital in Malanje.
Day, top staff executive for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, is visiting the Quipungos as part of a weeklong delegation trip to Angola. The members of the group, representing the mission agency and United Methodist Communications, are witnessing Angola's struggle to survive.

"It seems to me that that child would not have died in vain if we can tell his story," Day says. He tells the couple the board is working to eradicate malaria. The top priorities of the New York-based board are children, people in or coming out of crisis and castaways: those marginalized by society.

The board is actively recruiting 20 new missionaries, Day tells the Quipungos. "I hope one of them is a doctor assigned to East Angola."

He says he will work with Dr. Cherian Thomas, an executive at the board, to name someone who can help as a health coordinator. On this visit, $10,000 is being given to the orphanage of the East Angola Annual Conference.

The delegation is spending time in Malanje and Luanda meeting with the bishops of East and West Angola.

East Angola

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The Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, brings greetings to the West Angola Annual Conference.
Jose Quipungo is bishop of East Angola, elected to the episcopacy in 2000 and re-elected bishop for life in 2004. Laurinda Quipungo is a physician who graduated from the School of Medicine of the University Agostinho Neto in Luanda. She serves as the health coordinator for the East Angola United Methodist Annual (regional) Conference, runs a clinic at the conference headquarters, works part-time in the Malanje Provincial Hospital and serves as public health coordinator for the province.

Angola has only been at peace for the past four years, and infrastructure is still being rebuilt, Laurinda says.

When the couple returned to Malanje, Jose says he was called to evangelize in refugee camps. After he brought the word of Jesus Christ to the people, Laurinda would set up a mobile clinic to bring healing to their bodies.

Once, in 2002, she was setting up a clinic after her husband had preached, and she was approached by a couple who had split from the church and caused a lot of problems. They had a seriously ill child that they wanted her to see, she recalls.

"A lot of the church members got angry and said I shouldn't treat the child because of the trouble the parents had made for the church," she says. "I was faced with a terrible dilemma."

She explained to the crowd that visitors should always be treated as guests and taken care of first. Her husband had been preaching for reconciliation and unity.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Nurse Sara Neto (right) takes a medical history from the Rev. Gomes Muzungo Baiao at a mobile medical clinic.
The crowd finally agreed to let her treat the child.

"Months later, that couple came back to the church," she says. "I see my practicing medicine as a way to evangelize."

West Angola

Bishop Gaspar Joao Domingos and his wife Lucrecia Manual Alexandre are in the midst of the West Angola Annual Conference meeting when the delegation arrives. Domingos has been serving as a bishop since 2000 and became bishop for life in 2004.

Tents set up outside the church are filled with people seeing nurses for treatment of illnesses ranging from malaria to high blood pressure.

The Rev. Domingos Kafuanda, superintendent of the Kwanza Sur District, says he had been bedridden with high fever from malaria just two days ago. Everyone has had malaria, he says.

A little girl in his congregation recently died from the disease. He says she had been at church on Sunday, singing in the choir and then died the next day.

"Many times you can feel OK and not even know you have it," he says.

Day presents the West Angola Conference with a check for $10,000 to buy mosquito nets for all the pastors and their families.

"This gift we just received is a blessing," says Bishop Domingos. "It marks the beginning of the fight against malaria. Malaria remains the cause of so many deaths."

In addition to that money, the board has approved $40,000 for pastor support in East and West Angola. In 2005, the board donated another $40,000 with $20,000 going to the orphanage in East Angola and $20,000 for children's ministries in West Angola.

In the closing worship service for the West Angola Conference, Day stresses the importance of being in mission.

"Mission is the means by which we as disciples of Jesus Christ express our love and trust," he says. "Mission is the heartbeat of the church. No one can be a disciple of Christ if he sits on his hands doing nothing.

"We pray for you daily," he tells the conference. "We will continue to look for ways to be in mission with you."

*Gilbert is a news writer with United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Audio

Dr. Laurinda Vidal Quipungo: "Sometimes two or three die in a day."

The Rev. Domingos Kafuanda: "Child died on Monday."

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Resources

Angola mission profile

United Methodists in the fight against malaria

General Board of Global Ministries

Africa Malaria Initiative