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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Heavenly Advocacy

Last week, we studied a psalm and the topic of prayer in out hospital staff meeting.  And challenged the staff to pray for change, to take their problems to God, first. Well, the problem on their mind was electricity.  We had approached an organization to fund connecting the health center to the power lines, but been denied that money, so we had in our hearts that we'd somehow manage to do it ourselves.  Scott (with LOTS of help from Nathan!) has been managing a contract to connect the school and most of the mission houses.  He did our personal house connection himself, which was relatively straightforward. Working with a contractor for the rest of it has NOT been straightforward.  It has been a tedious, slow, frustrating, messy, and expensive process.  So taking on yet another project, the hospital, looms like a shadow.  But we need the electric power for oxygen, and for our blood and vaccine storage fridges.  So we believe in it and know it is something we want to do, but have not been able to manage it yet.  Last week, however, the staff prayed.

And two things happened.  A church related to one of our team mates decided to link an upcoming fundraiser to us, APPROACHED US, and agreed to fund electricity.  Then a few days later, the chairman of the electric board in Bundibugyo town APPROACHED Scott and told him he wanted to handle the initial phase of the connection himself, because he'd been convicted in his heart that this was an important public health issue.  Suddenly the two main obstacles, money and skilled personnel, were gone.

I have a fairly long list of things that I think are important projects, services, issues.  Much longer than we can actually accomplish on our own energy.  Much more expensive than our current resources allow.  But this week's uncanny convergence of events reminds me of the obvious.  The best way we can advocate for the redemption of Bundibugyo is to stimulate prayer.  Even though we've seen this over and over (like the time the mothers of malnourished kids prayed for a change in the UNICEF decision about providing milk) . . I need reminders like this hopeful electricity story.

So, on the long list, next up:  PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINE.  The "prevnar" immunization against pneumonia is standard in the USA.  It is NOT standard in Africa, where much greater proportions of children are dying from this particular bacterial infection.  And it is a distant dream in Bundibugyo.  However, this is probably the most important place in the world for this particular vaccine to be given. Because this district has the HIGHEST prevalence of the sickle cell gene in the world (45%!  THAT's A LOT).  And the number one infectious killer of young kids with sickle cell is the pneumococcal bacteria.  In our pediatric ward, 11% of admissions are for sickle cell disease.  We're a small health center yet we average 12 new diagnoses a month (I doubt many big-city specialty hematologists see that many).  The vaccine has the potential to save many thousands of lives.  

I don't know how to make the manufacturer (Pfizer) donate it.  Or make UNEPI (the vaccine program) decide to include it as essential.  Or make the Ugandan Ministry of Health, or the United Nations, or any other powers that be choose to initiate a new vaccine program in a place as remote and tenuous as Bundibugyo.

But God does.  So as we advocate here on the ground, let us also advocate on our knees.  And draw others into doing the same.

1 comment:

Charlotte Colvin said...

Hi Jennifer - I work for PATH and as you may know, we have a rather large portfolio of vaccine research here, including working with the private sector on Pnuemoccocal vaccine...I would happy to approace our folks with the information you shared on this post and see if they have any ideas about how to get some vaccine your way...I'm at if you want to contact me directly. In the meantime, I'll share the information with our vaccine team.