Burundi: New health clinic in Gitega

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A new Health Clinic is being opened in Gitega, Burundi thanks to funding from St. Mary's Church Reigate. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Hunger and disease are common in a country with extremely limited access to healthcare. The new centre will treat and estimated 10,000 people in its first year.

Burundi has one of the lowest GDPs in the world and its people are mostly subsistence farmers. Where healthcare is available it is all too often well out of the reach of ordinary families who struggle even to feed themselves.

WER has been working with local partner African Revival Ministries (ARM) since 1996 to bring long term relief to the area.

In Gitega ARM already operates an HIV/AIDS clinic and counselling centre that treats 150 patients plus families. Thanks to the generosity of St. Mary's Church Reigate the existing HIV/AIDS centre at Gitega will now be expanded into a health clinic and nutrition centre that cares for the wider population and treats a much broader range of ailments. In addition, by treating both sets of patients side by side, the clinic will help to break down the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

In Burundi most people live in rural areas. This makes access to medical facilities extremely difficult. The nearest other health facility to the new clinic, 5 miles away, is a run-down government owned hospital. It is the only one in the province but many are reluctant to go there unless desperate as it is unhygenic and overcrowded.

The new health centre is deliberately located so as to be accessible to the rural community and will provide health care free to those in poverty. In a country where only 2.3% of the total government income is spent on healthcare, less than that spent on of ice cream in the UK, this will make a huge difference.

The health centre will have a new consultation room, x-ray facilities and will offer dental treatments and gynaecological consultations. There will be a new, fully-equipped pharmacy which will provide medicines to those in need. Finally, a new nutrition centre will provide residential treatment to over 30 malnourished children per week and out-patient treatment for up to 100 at-risk children per week.

The nutrition centre will not only provide food, it will also provide nutritional advice and education. The land surrounding the health centre will be used to grow food and to teach people how to diversify their food supply.

As in many developing countries, HIV/AIDS poses a major threat to both individual sufferers and to the future economic and social development of Burundi. There were around 14,000 deaths last year from HIV/AIDS. This is a tragedy in itself, but it also leaves around 150,000 AIDS orphans who face terrible hardship.

Without decisive intervention these children will struggle to eat and have little chance of accessing education, meaning that they will never be able to escape poverty. This further prevents them reaching their potential and achieving dreams of a normal life. And there are even more children and young people whose parents are too ill to work, effectively shutting their children out of school.

ARM's work in Burundi has already made a huge difference but the new health clinic will extend this much further, reaching out to the many rural poor in the area giving them hope for a better future. With the massive increases in global food prices brought on by distant financial markets, the nutrition programme could not come at a more vital moment.

WER would like to thank the parisheners of St. Mary's Church for their generosity. The effects of this new centre will be felt for many years to come.