Presbyterians help provide medical and agricultural aid in strife-torn region
October 25, 2017
During the past year, over 1 million people have had to flee their homes in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo because of militia and/or army activities. As political unrest has spilled over into ethnic violence, many villages have been burned, and health centers and schools have been destroyed in the process. Since 1892, the Kasai region has been the main area in Congo where Presbyterian mission work has been carried out with what is now the Presbyterian Church of Congo (CPC).
The Access to Primary Health Care project (ASSP) has kept health services available in the region throughout the turmoil, ensuring that drugs, vaccinations, assisted births and nutrition activities continue. At times ASSP has had to expand its activity to provide food and water to some of the displaced people. IMA World Health, an organization founded by the PC(USA) and other churches, manages the ASSP program, which is funded by UKAID. My husband, Larry Sthreshley, a PC(USA) mission co-worker and health liaison, is the IMA World Health country director for this project.
ASSP gives support to 511 health centers and 28 hospitals in the Kasai and Kasai Central provinces, including many of those belonging to the Presbyterian Church of Congo. SANRU, a local rural health organization, is IMA’s implementing partner in the region. Through their mediation efforts with local traditional leaders and government officials, they have been able to ensure the security of most ASSP-supported health facilities. So despite all of the problems, the project has had only a minor decrease in use of services.
IMA, SANRU and local medical staff have been working in tense situations. Personnel have had to be evacuated from various towns numerous times and have had to negotiate travel through areas held by either militia or government forces to get supplies to health facilities. ASSP vehicles have been carjacked four times in the past six months. (All have been recovered.)
Though the situation is calming down somewhat, the disruption to agricultural and commercial activities means poverty and hunger will continue to increase in the coming months. Families have had to abandon fields and goods. Many cannot afford the $1.35 that health centers charge for a consultation. It will take time for these families to get re-established and rebuild businesses. Those who have fled will need to clear land for new fields, and it will be November before the next harvest, if they are fortunate to have seeds to plant. Many families’ seeds were either pillaged or burned. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is responding to the crisis by organizing a drive to provide seeds to displaced families in the coming season.
Inge Sthreshley, PC(USA) Mission Co-Worker, Democratic Republic of Congo
Today’s Focus: Democratic Republic of Congo
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, thank you for human connection as a window into your ways. Help us carry each other’s burdens. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.