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Butoke update to July 30. 2006


Dear brothers and Sisters,


I wrote this first by hand on 30th July.  As some of you know I took temporary residence in Tshikaji, far from the potential turmoil before, during, and after the elections:


From Tshikaji we continue, even intensify, Butoke’s activities in the rural areas.  The work progresses well; the main handicap is that we have no Email and even by telephone we are hard to reach; so we walk one kilometer and make phone appointments.


This is a time of distress for the people of DR Congo; millions call on God for deliverance.  There is the dry season with its usual miseries of cold nights, fog, often very hot noon; dust everywhere and water shortages, as well as hunger; diseases such as malaria and typhoid and meningitis and many deaths among children, especially. There are the would-be politicians, whose pictures are everywhere and whose feuds and threats to each other are the talk of the day. Almost no politician has a platform, they do not much discuss people’s daily problems; instead they offer T shirts, caps and more of their pictures and sometimes money.  Fears of renewed fighting are fueled by cases of arson and a couple of political murders.


Last night I was woken up by fervent prayers in the house: God’s help was being invoked against the threat of hunger in the dry season when food shortages usually start. This year harvests of the secondary season were meager in most places as crops dried up in an early dry season. The real shortages, combined with the political tensions and defective transport due to a railroad strike have led to an inflation of 600 percent.  Corn costing 200FC now sells at 1200 FC for 2.5kg.


Schools are closed and most have declared results, which we are now seeking to collect for 1200 students supported by Butoke in order to plan for next year:


Government-run health facilities are on strike.  So now we limit ourselves to strictly emergency cases, which we refer to private clinics.  We cannot cover all the cases as the fees are inflated due to the whole situation.  One case typical of the situation is Mrs Ngalula, wife of the manager of a Western Union Branch.  She went in labour for her

6th child.  Her husband took her by taxi to the General Hospital.  Finding they could not take care of her, they went to the Railroad Hospital, where they found a lone doctor. Accompanied by the doctor they took her 15 km further to IMCK, where she arrived in shock with a ruptured uterus.  Fortunately there was one unit of blood and also personnel to perform the operation. The next morning her husband was told to find three more units of blood for her. But as the hospital no longer pays for blood they have no longer donors on hand.  So we mobilized three Butoke workers who offered their blood.  But one was Hepatitis B+, so we found another willing villager.  Mother and child are doing well.


Our actions try to respond to the situation and our current focus besides food security and nutrition is on medical emergencies and responsible sexuality


We have accelerated our activities on Food Security and Nutrition; they continue to find enthusiastic responses.  The distribution of tools is almost completed.  Seeds have been and are being bought in distant markets: Luiza 250km; Mueka 270km; Bunkonde 80km. The seeds are fresher from the last harvest and there are bigger quantities of best varieties. This demands long trips over hazardous roads, but it all seems worthwhile to offer the best available.

The finalization of registration of associations is posing serious problems: We have already accepted 272 old associations with whom we collaborated well during one or two seasons.  Among them they cover about 350 ha.  All have worked bigger surfaces than before, a sure sign of confidence and hope; also a sign that we progress towards food security. There are daily more associations knocking at the door. We had planned for 400 ha so some new associations can be assumed under the AIM CIDA support. We are still surveying the proposed fields and visiting the associations but we know already that there are valid demands for about 650 ha or 250 ha over and above the AIM CIDA plan.


So now the challenge becomes to come up with resources to satisfy more people able and willing to work hard to feed themselves and their families. We propose to recruit with supplementary resources exclusively those associations that have already worked a substantial field; as time is short and it avoids needing to supply tools and potentially food for work.  We furthermore plan to provide bean seeds, local variety or niebe H36. These choices offer three benefits:  they enrich the soil; they ask for less investment per ha than other crops; they can be sown until late in the season. Sowing should start 15 August and needs to stop by 15 October.  The local variety is the cheapest and comes to about USD 50 per ha; the H36 comes to USD 140 per ha. Productivity in yield and in market value is much higher for H36.


So we beg all you people of good will to contribute generously before 15 September 2006 so we can purchase more bean seeds and support one or two supplementary agronomists to guide the action. We pray that with God s assistance we will find these resources soon enough and bless you for any help.


The complement to our agricultural effort is the Community Nutrition Center which caters to the malnourished children of Tshikaji and surroundings.  At this time of generalized food shortage the center has 14 severely malnourished and 56 moderately malnourished children as well as 39 widows.  AIM CIDA supports the center to the tune of USD 15000 a year or USD 1250 per month.  But our real expenses last month on food, water, wood and salaries were about USD 2500.  The deficit is covered by undesignated gifts to Butoke.  As you can see from our unit cost, less than USD 25 per month per person, it is a lean operation. We know it saves many lives and is changing people’s understanding of marasmus and kwashiorkor, moving them from labeling every malnourished as a witch.

Our studies show that better than half of the malnourished belong to families that have food security problems that affect also the adults. We need to reinforce these families’ food security.  They also have on the average almost 3 children under 6 years old. So we need to reinforce dialogue about child spacing in the overall context of responsible sexuality. Furthermore we can see we need to help the families develop more competences in child feeding and child raising.  This may sound astonishing, but everyday we see mothers and older siblings engage in punitive behavior when children show no interest in the food.  Almost no one plays with the kids. Enticing the child to eat does not seem to belong to the repertoire yet. In fact even in families without malnutrition parents spend almost no time playing or dialoguing with children.  From toddler age onwards they are asked to play at some distance.  Adults speak to them to command or reprimand. Malnourished children often spend hours alone staring in space. So we need to find a way to stimulate parents to provide children meaningful interaction, intellectual stimulation and emotional support and satisfaction.


That is why we have started nursery level games of shapes, Lego and alphabet with a small group of healthy children. The first good news is they like it very much, but the games that aim for 2 to 5 year-olds are really most useful at present with 4 to 8 year olds; the hope is to progressively interest younger ones and also involve recovering malnutrition cases. WHO has suggested simplified toys for malnourished children. We want to try but the major obstacle to overcome is the lack of interest by parent. So maybe the way of least resistance is to develop our approach with the healthy and moderately malnourished and interest the parents in it, only then move to try with malnourished.


We had last week a visit by a delegation of Newcastle Presbytery and Lewis Presbyterian Church. Their main aim was to visit Kananga Presbytery and its parishes. Many parishes of this Presbytery in Delaware USA have also supported Butoke, so they were eager to see for themselves.  This was a happy occasion.  They visited the Butoke nutrition center and some of the fields.  They took many pictures, some of which we hope we can add to the web site. It also raised people’s hopes and expectations that we will be able to enroll and feed the hungry and provide seeds.


One of our visitors also attended a session of training of pastors and elders on responsible sexuality.  This session was led by Dr Jean Lumbala and consisted of a short biblical introduction, an outline of the major issues to be considered and the 1 hour of small group discussions based on short hypothetical cases.  Discussions were highly participatory and when the groups reported, there were clearly some points where there was no consensus. But for the first time all churches of Tshikaji were actively considering the important issues of sexual responsibilities and responsible sex.


As you can see Butoke is fully active even though in the midst of a society in transition and sometimes chaos. We count on God and your help to expand our action to reach more people.


In His Peace

Dr Jean Lumbala Muamba 

Cecile De Sweemer MD DrPH

Rev Lazare Tshibuabua Dikebele

PS Those willing and able to donate can contact
Dickens and Branch Warfield bwarfield@comcast.net for gifts from the US ; channeled through Maryland Presbyterian church they can be tax free

Real Lavergne  real_lavergne@acdi-cida.gc.ca for gifts from Canada

From other continents gifts are best channelled through the US