Suzanne has lived in the Mulongo community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) all her life – except for the time of year when epidemics such as cholera broke out. Then the whole family moved out of the village away from the Congo River to wait for the disease to run its course. Her family has good reasons for doing this.
Suzanne summed up their philosophy this way: “It was better to flee than to wait and catch cholera, which can take many members of your family in a very short time.”
No family should lose 20 members to cholera, a preventable and treatable disease. Help increase the efforts of Global Health interventions by supporting.
When she was growing up, Suzanne lived in a household of three extended families with a total of 31 people – four adults and 27 children. Her remote village had no medicine for cholera. One year, Suzanne’s mother and another mother in the household died. She also lost four brothers and 15 more of the children in her extended family, bringing the number in the family from 31 to 11.
All of these family members were lost in the space of two months, even though the family moved several times that year to try to mitigate the spread. Finally, her father took the remaining family members miles away from the river. He did this every time an outbreak occurred, even though it disrupted the children’s schooling.
Today, at 38 years of age, Suzanne is one of the few in her family to survive. She is married with 12 children of her own, but her family no longer flees to avoid exposure to cholera and other waterborne diseases. Several health partners have come together to bring hope to Suzanne and other residents of the region.
Working with the Democratic Republic of Congo Provincial Health Department, local health programs and Doctors Without Borders, Global Ministries’ Global Health program, Abundant Health (Advance, #3021770), has joined an overall effort to: clean up and test community water sources; build sanitation facilities; stock and distribute infection prevention control materials and medicines to treat cholera in its clinics; and enhance local community education efforts on how cholera is contracted and spread through contaminated water sources.
As a result of these various efforts, Suzanne has learned how to protect her family and where to receive treatment, medicine, and prevention and hygiene supplies during cholera outbreaks.
“With awareness and training, I am no longer afraid of cholera because before we did not respect hygiene measures and there was no help,” Suzanne said. “Since the digging of wells, construction of public toilets and instruction of households to build their own toilets, we may go a year or more without cholera being declared in our community.”
As soon as the epidemic broke out in 2021, the United Methodist health facilities with support from Global Health were early responders, which limited the number of deaths in the community.
Success has come for Mulongo and a couple nearby villages with a lot of hard work thanks to this integrated community health effort. But more work needs to be done, because cholera has now affected new communities down river who have not yet received the training. It will likely appear again in Mulongo too, as a recurring problem.
A main accomplishment has been to change the behavior of community members. Many now avoid collecting river water for household use and to draw from wells that are tested and treated for safety or spring water collected at the source, which is still filtered before use in the household.
excerpt from a story by Christie R. House, consultant writer and editor, Global Ministries and UMCOR
The Advance is the accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church. The Advance invites contributors to designate support for projects related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Individuals, local churches, organizations, districts and annual conferences may donate to The Advance. One hundred percent of every gift to The Advance goes to the project selected by the giver. Gifts to missionaries support the entire missionary community.