Butoke update, May 4, 2008
May 4, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is Sunday 4th May. Dr Jean is off to Kananga town to buy new tyres for the car and insecticide in preparation of the longest trip we have yet made to the interior. If possible we leave tomorrow for Yangala, see enclosed map We will travel 400 km on bad roads to the site of our water and sanitation activities with UNICEF support between May and October this year. From what we hear the village communities are small, less than 800 people mostly, in the middle of the forest: People live from hunting, fishing: We will protect 20 springs and build about 16 public latrines and 2000 family latrines.
We hurry to arrive as there is now in Yangala an outbreak of rabies among dog and human population: About 50 people bitten and 8 died from rabies. The big agencies will probably help in a matter of weeks or months, but to stop the epidemic and its panic needs to be done now. So Butoke bought a thousand doses of animal vaccine and hope to use it around the epicentre first. Some of you may remember Cecile did the same in 1969 around Narangwal villages in India under Prof Carl Taylor.
Benefit to human population? – having a buffer of protected animals and probably stopping the epidemic in the villages. Benefit to the dogs, protecting them both against rabies and against overzealous officials who wanted to kill all of them. Apart from any protectionist considerations that are ours, the fact that the dogs hunt with the villagers would make such a holocaust most unwelcome and probably unsuccessful. So may be part of our role became to send a message that might have pleased St Franciscus May the dogs live on your side in peace. Take care of them so that they may protect you.
The biggest news in recent weeks has been that CIDA accepted our proposal for an integrated program of human development which supports all aspects of our activities except water and sanitation: In Luiza and Tshikaji we are refining and expanding the nutrition activities: While in Yangala and on our way back in Luiza we will spread the news and encourage the preparations for the upcoming agricultural season: Soon after our return we want to start formalising all aspects of the education and protection activities: So we are bubbling with ideas for long term while coping with the daily emergencies:
The last two months have been disastrous because of a breakdown of train transport and a plane crash. Road transport is rising in cost with petrol products costing about 3 UDF a liter. There is shortage of food in town and even worse in the villages. Prices have risen 400 percent for basic foods such as corn. Most people hunger even more than before and we have seen the arrival of six severely malnourished adults: Adult women weighing 25 to 30 kilos or 55 pounds to 66 pounds: Yes, 3 of them were also VIH positive and will probably not make it even though they receive also ARV medicine. We worry about the future of their offspring
We now have 23 orphans in our charge of which 7 are under 1 year old. They are doing well in terms of nutrition and health care and are thriving but we need more sponsors as they need bedding, clothes and toys, which so far we cannot afford:
In recent months, we have frequently been the subject of very favourable reports on Radio OKAPI which is the most trustworthy radio in Congo heard from border to border: They have had reports on the water and sanitation project, on the nutrition centre, on our offer of rabies vaccine and on Cecile as a Butoke volunteer All of it you can find also on their web site
We have a new instrument a satellite connection permitting internet, we will try it out on our travel but please remember it may not work So up to about 12 May our access is not entirely assured
Please pray that our explorations do not harm the ongoing work, that we may truly bring peace to our friends the dogs and to their human partners, that we may let His light shine wherever there is darkness,
In His love
Jean, Lazare, and Cecile
Cecile De Sweemer MD DrPH
2,av Malandji Biancki Kananga
Kasai Occidental, Congo