Imagine for a moment, you are injured and taken to the hospital. You are admitted and receive treatment. As you recover, you feel your stomach growl. It has been a while since you have eaten. You are hungry. But the hospital has no food to give you. Without a family member to help, you will die, not from your original injury, but from starvation, right there in the hospital.
This is the reality of many hospitals in the developing world. They care deeply for the physical needs of the people, but there are no resources to feed their patients. For many refugees and outcast members of the community, such as patients suffering from leprosy, there is no one to care for these needs, which can result in the patient starving to death.
Our team of four traveled to the small town of Impfondo in the French-speaking country of the Republic of Congo. In this small town is a 60-bed missionary hospital, Pioneer Christian Hospital, a ministry of Global Outreach Mission. Our team went to assist with various projects. One member of our team, Candice Scatliff, a nutritionist, was there to assist in establishing a feeding program for patients.
The dream of medical director Dr. Joseph Harvey is to establish a program in which the hospital is able to provide nourishment to all inpatients, thus improving prognosis, recovery time, and the overall health of patients. The challenges to this goal are many: Lack of resources, logistics, and know-how. This is where Candice came in. For the two weeks she was in the Congo, her main focus was to overcome these challenges. She met frequently with the medical staff, worked with the hospital cook (for the few who can afford to buy food), lobbied aid organizations, provided training in nutrition to the head of nursing administration, and even recorded radio programs (translated into French and Lingala, the local languages) addressing nutrition-related health concerns in the area.
The Lord blessed far beyond what even Candice imagined. By the end of the two weeks in Congo, they had:
1) Established and implemented a feeding program for refugees. In Congo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides food rations for all refugees (to provide them nourishment while getting back on their feet after fleeing from war). However, if a refugee is in the hospital, they are unable to access this resource. They were able to lobby the UNHCR to release these rations to the hospital and allow the hospital to prepare and deliver the meals to patients. They received the authorization for pick-up on official letterhead the day Candice departed for the States. The very next day the hospital began preparing and distributing this food to its refugee patients. Praise God for such a victory!
2) Partnered with World Food Program to establish a supplementation program for the most vulnerable age groups who are moderately malnourished (children under 5, as well as pregnant and lactating women). Participants, regardless of inpatient or outpatient status, will receive a daily food supplement called “Plumpy-Sup” to help boost their nutritional status. This program can make a huge difference to these vulnerable age groups and is to be implemented in the coming weeks. We praise the Lord for this!
3) Submitted a proposal for funding of a General Feeding Program for all patients. This is still our grand goal, and it is still in need of much prayer. They submitted a proposal to the United States Ambassador to Congo to fund the daily dietary needs for all 60 inpatients (and their caregivers) at the hospital. They were able to obtain the endorsement of the World Food Program’s country director for this proposal.
Candice is still working on creating meal plans based on locally available and culturally acceptable foods to supply the patients with their daily nutritional needs. When, Lord willing, the funding is provided, they will be operating on a strict $0.56/person/day budget for food.
Now imagine, you are injured and taken to the hospital. You are admitted and receive treatment, and you are fed! Your body is able to recover during your hospital stay, and you are able to be ministered to spiritually as well. We are thankful for progress, but we are not totally there. Please pray for this important component of nutrition needed for all inpatients so that Pioneer Christian Hospital can fulfill its aim “to offer healing to the whole person, integrating physical, social and spiritual treatment.”
By Candice Scatliff and Erica Simone