Butoke update, October 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is autumn in USA, Canada and Europe, a time of abundance of food and fruit and soon a time of Advent.
Here it is the rainy season, a time of hope for harvest in December but of cruel shortage of food and seeds right now. A time of hunger, disease, of anger and despair, a time of death. In short, the season of witchcraft.
It is also the time schools reopen their doors and parents in the midst of scarcity are supposed to pay school fees, uniforms, notebooks and many children are excluded (40% and more) and cry because their parents are unable to fulfill these obligations.
This year it also coincides with a crisis in fuel. Since the end of June there is a fuel shortage and speculation. The price for petrol rose to $5 per liter, $20 per gallon in July, then came down to $3 per liter. Diesel stayed more or less constant at $1.5 per liter, until a shortage manifested itself this week. The price for diesel has started rising, though there is little demand, mostly for rare trucks, even more rare buses and some exceptional cars. All wares are more and more expensive as this province is virtually totally dependent on importation from abroad or other provinces even for basic food items.
BUTOKE tries to help in the different aspects of life:
The main agricultural season is in full swing. Rains have come with two tornados that destroyed part of the prison of Kananga and played havoc especially with brick buildings that are built almost airtight. These storms add to the conviction that we are under siege by witches and add to the predisposition to “fight back”. We maintain our focus, though, as much as possible on the agricultural season and the fact that schools reopen.
Food shortages started early in June; normally they come about in September. People worked larger surfaces than before, but many have remained without seeds in the larger community. Butoke has distributed seeds since June through our associations and directly to some very vulnerable families. The distribution is still ongoing for soy and beans. This is one of our original and most popular activities and maybe also one of the most crucial, as it helps people to be more autonomous and peaceful.
This season, we not only continue the work of the nutrition center at Tshikaji and Luiza, but we have two UNICEF sponsored projects that extend the activity to 9 centers in the territory of Luiza and to 36 centers in Tshikapa. We have roughly 1100 severely malnourished children we are trying to rehabilitate. Our struggle is to keep UNICEF on track to liberate food and Congolese transport services to bring the food items in a timely fashion, but it is hard, given the fuel crisis. They have been promised for tomorrow after a break of two weeks. ADRA Canada is considering a small grant that will help us to diagnose malaria, HIV and anemia free of cost to the malnourished patients.
More adult women (7 currently) arrive in the office for failure to lactate as they are malnourished. Some we can refeed quickly and lactation picks up; some we need to refeed while supplying the babes. More (28) grandmas and aunties arrive with orphan babies who need to be rehabilitated after days sometimes two weeks on tea with sugar or simply sugar water. It’s pathetic. Our friend Paul Evans contributes especially to keep this activity going at about $100 per month per baby.
Since early in the rainy season we are submerged by cases of malaria, most dangerous with small kids and young women. The local culture seems to invite that young women manifest their headache and malaise of cerebral malaria with manic behavior and violence.
Malnutrition and diarrhea diminish people of all ages to marasmic shadows of their previous self. Each day we receive severely ill people in our office, in Tshikaji, in our Tshikapa and Luiza centers Most we can save but even so we are often facing death, where survival would be possible if the cases turned up earlier.
We wanted to go to the US and Canada, but we could at first not make it because of the difficulty to obtain a passport for Dr Jean Lumbala. No sooner was that solved, when Dr. Jean fell ill with hepatitis B. He tried to maintain activities at full speed. But on 16th September he could not implement project activities. Instead, he was caught up in trying to stem a menace of village wide violence after an involuntary homicide. People searched for the girl who killed and her parents and sisters and their kids; they burnt down their huts, stole their animals and whatever else was attractive. But Dr. Jean was successful in that no one was killed beyond the first person, who leaves 9 orphans, but he himself was exhausted physically and emotionally and the jaundice deepened. We cannot travel at least for a month else both Butoke and D. Jean may collapse.
You may wonder what the murder was about? Mubaka sent her 5 year old to fetch 3 small packets of sugar each worth about the equivalent of 20 cents. The girl arrived home with only two packets. She was taken back to the vendor who confirmed three packets had been delivered. Mubaka started whipping the little girl in public. A passerby who happened to be the little girl’s paternal aunt tried to stop the whipping and was seized by Mubaka. The grip was just on the carotids; the aunty fell and died instantaneously. Everyone believed both murderer and victim were witches and the village should be cleansed by killing and chasing family members and burning down the families’ huts. Both families have been neighbors and have been united by matrimony. But 20 cents of sugar called for violence against a child. That violence provoked a dispute between adults that led to a killing which led to arson and could have led to new killings if Dr. Jean had not intervened by tracking the murderer and delivering her to the police, freeing the police to extinguish fires.
The nine orphans will go to school with Butoke’s support and so will the two children left behind by the killer. In prison no food is offered so we feed the woman prisoner, or else delivering her to the police becomes condemnation to death by starvation.
Rapid Intervention not only saves lives immediately. Our practice teaches others some of the skills needed. Some of you may remember that we included peace and reconciliation as subjects for the reinforcement of teachers’ training.
We have sponsored and housed orphans. A judge for children has been nominated newly and he is interested in giving us legal rights and obligations on the children. We now have 35 in residence and about 45 out in the community for which we provide food. Almost every day new ones get added.
We sponsor also 365 orphans and other vulnerable ones for primary school; another 157 in secondary school.
We just hired Monique to run the administration of this community. Everyone in the international agencies talks about the need to protect orphans, but it is hard as the local community seems hostile to them, church teaching notwithstanding. Even so, some hardy ones really break through, thanks to our help.
Today the good news is Dr. Jean is finding new energy, even though not yet up to long hours of work he used to keep. I hammer away at reports and proposals.
Yours in His love
Jean, Lazare and Cecile
Contributions to Butoke in Canada can be sent through Real Lavergne, Canadian International Development Agency, 200 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau Quebec, Canada, K1A 0G4.
Contributions in the USA can be made payable to H. Branch Warfield, 13801 York Rd., V-3, Cockeysville, MD, 21030 marked “for Butoke” or to Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Rd., Baltimore, MD, 21286, USA, also marked “for Butoke.” Contributions to Maryland P C for Butoke may be tax deductible in the USA.
Contributions in the U K can be sent through Paul Evans, 5 Westville Ave., Ilkley, LS29 9AH, United Kingdom.