Tuesday (January 19) was the inauguration of the Emmanuel Health Clinic in Gallo in the western Central African Republic. Deborah and I attended the event along with some 2000 others, including representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Germany, Hermannsburg (OELM), Global Health Ministries (GHM), and Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry (LPGM). Until now the health needs in Gallo and the surrounding villages have only been served by a small Lutheran dispensary, with the nearest hospital an hour away over a dirt road full of potholes. The Emmanuel Health Clinic boasts a modern operating theater, laboratory, maternity ward and 18 beds. The opening of this clinic will greatly boost health care in this underserved, poverty-stricken region.
For humanity as a whole, the health improvements achieved since 1960 have been unprecedented. In the past 50 years, mortality among children under five years old has dropped by two-thirds world-wide. There are a few countries, such as the CAR, where these improvements have not occurred. According to the United Nations, the CAR is in the midst of a severe humanitarian crisis, with the population shrinking due to lack of medical care, insecurity, and economic collapse. The CAR is currently third from the bottom (out of 182 countries) in the Human Development Index. Despite this, little humanitarian servicein terms of money, personnel, or supplieshas flowed into this country.
In CAR, roughly 300 to 400 excess deaths occur each day due to the lack of a functioning health system. The country's security problems and poor infrastructure are not the greatest barriers to relief and development, rather the biggest limit is lack of global interest. If we want to improve the lives of the poorest citizens on our planet, perhaps CAR, where the barriers to doing good are small and the potential to do good is large, would be a great place to start. Small efforts, such as the Emmanuel Health Clinic, will make a huge difference in a corner of the world that has been neglected for too long.
The photo above shows Deborah translating for Pastor Tim Iverson, Executive Director of Global Health Ministries, during the inauguration ceremony.
Joe and Deborah Troester are ELCA missionaries in Baboua, the Central African Republic. Pastor Deborah teaches at the Lutheran Theological School in Baboua. Joe serves as technical advisor for PASE, which provides clean drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation to villagers.