A letter from Inge Sthreshley serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
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People often ask me what it’s like to work in Congo and my response is, “Well, it can be a lot of things, but it’s never boring.” Every week is different and brings its challenges and rewards. The other week ended well. I was leaving the office late Friday afternoon and had just locked the door behind me when a delivery truck pulled up. It had our printing order that the nutrition team had been waiting on for a while—preschool consultation forms. I was thrilled and didn’t mind unlocking the door and staying a little longer to see them all get unloaded.
The preschool consultation forms are used during well baby clinics. A form is established for each child. They are used for recording a baby’s vaccinations and vitamin A supplementation, tracking their weight and height over time as they grow, and to give simple nutrition counseling. The inside portion has a colorful “Road to Health” chart (see chart at end of letter) where the child’s weight can be recorded monthly. Both the mother and the nurse can visually see if the child is gaining weight and staying in the “green zone,” that is, progressing well. If the child starts slipping into the yellow zone, off the “road to health,” an attentive nurse will examine the child more closely, work with the mother to identify what the cause might be, and then provide treatment and/or give counseling.
These “Road to Health”/growth monitoring forms bring back memories. When our own children were little, Larry, being “Mr. Public Health,” would weigh and measure our daughter, Lisa, and son, Michael, and track their growth on these same charts. We have a cute picture of Lisa when she was around 14 months old, “reading” one of her Dad’s public health books titled “See How They Grow”—with a “road to health chart” on the cover. Little did we know at that time that Lisa would get a master’s degree in public health. What a blessing to have a daughter who grows up healthy and happy and is now charting her own course in the world of public health. And, what a blessing to have the opportunity now to help other young families track their children’s growth that can lead to bright futures.
In a country like Congo, where 23 percent of children are underweight and chronic malnutrition is at 43 percent, these “Road to Health” charts are an invaluable tool for health center staff to monitor the growth of children. Good nutrition during the first five years of a child’s life, and in particular during the first two years, is absolutely critical to their long-term health and well-being. Knowing which direction a child is heading on the path is extremely important. This is the reason why the Access to Primary Healthcare (ASSP) program’s nutrition component supports and strengthens preschool consultation activities in over 878 health centers throughout 52 health zones. To date we have distributed over a 623,000 of these growth monitoring forms and have also helped equip health centers with scales, measuring boards, and nutrition educational materials. The distribution of these additional forms this year will correspond with a refresher course for 283 nurses in North Maniema and North Ubangi in how to carry out well baby clinics.
Thank you for your prayers and for your financial gifts toward our sending and support. We also want to thank those of you who were able to increase your financial support for our ministry, given the projected shortfall that Presbyterian World Mission anticipated in 2015. We are pleased to share with you that the Presbyterian Mission Agency fund-raising goals were not only met but were exceeded in significant measure, and this allows most mission personnel to stay on the field through 2016.
That said, we ask for your continued support, that you will continue with us on this faith journey. Through your giving, approximately 421,000 children this year will have their own road to health charts and will have a better chance of growing up healthy and having a brighter future. We covet your prayers for the work of the Presbyterian Church in this country and the many activities Presbyterians are involved in that seek to address both the physical and spiritual needs of the many children in this country.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139:13-14).
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