by Erik Tryggestad
A deadly cholera outbreak adds to the misery of people in this southern African nation, already suffering from a collapsing economy and food shortage.
Just when it seemed things couldn't get much worse for the people of Zimbabwe, an outbreak of cholera has killed more than 2,000 people-and could claim tens of thousands more.
Near the town of Macheke, patients line the breezeways of the Nhowe Mission Brian Lemons Memorial Hospital. Many seek treatment for the food-and-water-borne infection, which causes diarrhea, severe dehydration, and, if left untreated, death within hours.
"Normally cholera is not deadly, but people already weakened by hunger are more susceptible to it," said Dr. Steve Lemons, a longtime supporter of the hospital, named for his late son, and member of East Point Church of Christ in Wichita, Kan.
The mission hospital treats more than 5,000 patients per month-nearly double the number it treated two years ago, Lemons said.
About 90 miles west of the capital, Harare, "things are terrible at the moment," minister Fred Abraham said. Much of the city has no running water, and people are forced to drink from contaminated sources.
The country's ongoing economic crisis has forced healthcare workers to leave the country in search of work. Hospital wards are closing, and "those who are operating are charging U.S. dollars, which most of the people can't afford," Abraham said. Zimbabweans with sick relatives attempt to cross the nation's southern border into South Africa in hopes of finding treatment.
The Brian Lemons Hospital and about 55 other mission facilities are now responsible for 90 per cent of patient care in the country, according to Nhowe Mission's latest newsletter.
In December, the East Point church raised $15,000 to assist in relief efforts. Other congregations-including the Landmark Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala., the Cole Mill Road Church of Church of Christ in Durham, N.C., the Southwest Church of Christ in Amarillo, Tex., and Hillcrest and Baker Heights Churches of Christ in Abilene, Tex.-and individual church members contributed an additional $85,000.
The East Point church is using the funds to buy food through contacts in Harare and South Africa and distribute it through local churches.
The congregation also assisted in the distribution of 20,000 medication packs to treat Cholera. Nashville, Tenn.-based Healing Hands International coordinated the shipment of the packs, which workers at Nhowe Mission used and shared with other mission hospitals.
More funds are needed, Lemons said, as Zimbabwe's economic crisis, food shortage, and cholera epidemic continue. The United Nations reports that 1,550 new cases of cholera are reported daily in the country.
"This crisis is far from over," said Dr. Doug Chambers, who chairs East Point's missions committee. "We need help from throughout the Church if we are to succeed."
Donations may be sent to Zimbabwe Emergency Food Relief, East Point Church of Christ, 747 N. 127th St. East, Wichita, KS 67206. For more information, see nhowemission.org, eastpointchurchofchrist.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (316)684-3723.
From the February, 2009, issue of
The Christian Chronicle.
Reprinted with permission
Erik Tryggestad is assistant managing editor of The Christian Chronicle.