Agency mission helps nurse children back to health in Congo

Dr. Marie Claire Manafundu, program officer for the Maternal and Child Health Program in East Congo, serves porridge to malnourished children at United Methodist Irambo Hospital in Bukavu, Congo. Photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UM News.
Dr. Marie Claire Manafundu, program officer for the Maternal and Child Health Program in East Congo, serves porridge to malnourished children at United Methodist Irambo Hospital in Bukavu, Congo. Photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UM News.
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For more than three years, The United Methodist Church has fed over 1,000 malnourished children in Bukavu, Kisangani, Kindu and Tunda. 

The effort — part of the Maternal and Child Health Program in East Congo — has been getting financial support from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ Global Health program since 2016.

Your support of the World Service Fund apportionment supports program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church.

Regional violence has rendered fields inaccessible, and families have left rural areas, putting children’s health at risk. 

Gisele Bitembu, 40, and her eight children live in the area of United Methodist Irambo Hospital in Bukavu. “Three of my children,” she said, “presented severe malnutrition in 2019. Today, with the support of the church, my three children (have) come to recover their normal health.” 

Likewise, five of Adrienne Aksanti’s six children suffered from malnutrition. Today, they are thriving. 

“In January 2020,” she said, “I had lost hope, but today the church has changed the state of health of my children.” 

Dr. Marie Claire Manafundu, program officer for the East Congo mother-child health program and wife of East Congo Area Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, leads the effort. 

Children receive porridge three days a week at the feeding sites.

She said the program works with community relays and the church’s UMConnect messaging platform to make people aware of the support and to encourage them to continue follow-up care.

Masika Ndongo, a midwife, supervises treatment of malnourished children at the Irambo health center. “We receive new cases of malnourished children every day,” she said, adding that the staff does everything in its power to help children recover quickly.

“I work in collaboration with the community relays, who go household by household to sensitize parents and pregnant women to respect their appointments,” Ndongo said.

Daniel Dunia Runinga, mayor of the Ibanda municipality, expressed gratitude to The United Methodist Church as a reliable partner supporting the Congolese government in various programs.

Dr. Jimmy Kasongo, who works at Irambo Hospital, said people living with HIV and AIDS also continue to benefit from financial support from the mission agency’s Global Health program.

According to data from the latest UNAIDS report, roughly half a million people are living with HIV in Congo. 

“People living with HIV or AIDS have the same rights as other people and deserve our full attention so that they are not marginalized in society,” Manafundu said. 

Bishop Unda said he is grateful to Global Ministries for supporting health programs that are part of the church’s action plan in his area.

“I congratulate all those involved in this great work of taking care of malnourished children, pregnant women and people living with HIV and AIDS,” Unda said. “We preach the word of God, but we also have an obligation to maintain the physical health of our devotees.” 

excerpt from a story by Kituka Lolonga, communicator in the Kivu Conference.

The World Service Fund provides basic financial support to program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church. Through World Service funding, agencies support annual conferences and local congregations in living out God’s mission for the worldwide Church. General agencies also provide essential services and ministries beyond the scope of individual local congregations and annual conferences through services and ministries that are highly focused, flexible, and capable of rapid response.