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Supplies head to Zimbabwe hospital

HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP)–Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Zimbabwe — a high-profile ministry of Southern Baptist international missions since the 1950s — has been laboring under enormous pressure since the economy of the African country went into a tailspin in 2000. With inflation soaring out of control and essential infrastructure like water and electricity faltering, just keeping the doors open at the 110-bed hospital has been a major challenge.

“It has been getting harder and harder to keep things going,” said Mark Byler, Sanyati’s medical director. “We’re having a hard time getting food, fuel and medicines. The electricity and water keep going off.”

Because the hospital is the only source of health care available for many of the 90,000 people in that rural part of central Zimbabwe, the situation has become critical. Besides its inpatient load, Sanyati cares for 150 outpatients a day and delivers about 1,500 babies each year.

And the impact has been more than local, Byler said. Hospitals all across the country are struggling.

“People come from all over Zimbabwe,” he said. “Hospitals have less and less to work with, and doctors and nurses are leaving the country. Many facilities are not able to do surgery or care for patients like they could a few years ago.”

Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer and Sub-Sahara Africa area director Mark Hatfield visited Sanyati in late 2007 and were distressed to find the hospital’s essential medicines nearly depleted and unlikely to be replenished by the government.

“Italian Baptists had generously given an ambulance, two washing machines and money for supplies to help with the situation,” Hatfield said. “We requested $45,000 in Southern Baptist relief funds to provide a supply of basic antibiotics, anti-malarial medicines and many other essentials.

“I continue to see that God has His hand in providing for the needs of the hospital to continue its work,” Byler said. “He keeps bringing organizations like Baptist Global Response to us.”

BGR is making plans to address the water problem as well, said Byler, who started helping out at Sanyati as a volunteer in 1989 and has been the full-time medical director since August 2004.

“We used to supply our own water from wells that fed into a water tank,” he said. “A couple of decades ago the town built a water treatment facility and we began pumping water from that station. Things have deteriorated to the point, however, that we can’t depend on that water supply.

“That’s a huge problem because you can’t run a hospital without water. You can’t do laundry or wash and sterilize equipment. You can’t do surgery or even flush toilets unless you hand carry the water.”

Baptist Global Response has asked the International Mission Board’s logistics coordinator in Zimbabwe, Barry Robinson, to work with an irrigation firm on a feasibility study, Hatfield said.

“The municipal water system works when they have electricity, but the last seven kilometers of that system, including two large pumps, a huge holding tank at the municipality and the actual pipeline, is owned and maintained by the hospital,” Hatfield explained. “One of the pumps does not work at all, and the one remaining has seen better days.”

The feasibility study will examine what it would cost to repair or replace the existing system that ties into the municipality’s supply, as well as test four of the old wells to determine what it would take to get them back on line to provide water when the municipal system is not functioning.

Through the restocking of Sanyati’s essential medicines, Southern Baptists who care will make a meaningful difference in the lives of about 20,000 families, and for many the impact will be life-saving, Hatfield said. One in five adults in Zimbabwe is living with HIV, and many of those people have had to go without treatment because of the medicine shortage.

The supplies are expected to arrive in June or July, Hatfield noted.

“We pray that these medicines will arrive in a timely manner,” Hatfield said. “Our desire is that those who receive them will be healed of their sicknesses. We want them to know Southern Baptists care about their suffering and want to share a message of hope, even in a land where hope is difficult to find.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.

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