Liberia's Ganta Hospital rebuilds in 2006
Feb. 12, 2007
NOTE: Photos are available at http://umns.umc.org.
A UMNS Report By Linda Bloom*
United Methodists in Illinois are among those helping Liberia's Ganta Hospital recover from massive looting and destruction in 2003 that temporarily shut down mission work there.
"We're committed to seeing the (new) hospital built," said the Rev. Timothy Bias, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Peoria, Ill.
Still rebounding from Liberia's long civil war, the United Methodist-related hospital completed renovations of the building that was burned and nearly destroyed during civil unrest in 2003 and has begun to construct a new hospital building. The hospital reopened in 2004 and currently has 164 employees, including three physicians, 18 registered nurses and seven certified midwives.
The rebuilding of Ganta also is helping to transform Liberians themselves, Bias said in a Feb. 6 telephone interview. "The same people who had destroyed the hospital are now building the hospital," he said, noting that ex-combatants were working at the construction site when he visited during 2006.
Other highlights of 2006 were the dedication of a new eye clinic, continued outreach for childhood vaccinations and visits by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, according to the annual report submitted by Victor Doolakeh Taryor, the hospital's administrator.
"Through the faithful support of partners and friends of Ganta Hospital, we continue to provide affordable and quality health-care services to the rapidly growing population of northeastern Liberia and the border towns of the republics of Guinea and Ivory Coast," Taryor wrote in his report.
Cherian Thomas, an executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, called Ganta Hospital a "success story" and said the Liberian Annual Conference, under the leadership of Bishop John Innis, "made a real goal of rehabilitating the hospital."
Thomas praised Taryor - who in July completed a year of study in hospital administration at the University of North Carolina - and said the Rev. Herbert and Mary Zigbuo, a missionary couple, "did a great job in laying the foundation" for Ganta's recovery.
Renovation on the burned building was completed in August, thanks to $42,500 from First United Methodist Church in Peoria, Ill., the United Nations Development Program, the Liberian government, locally generated donations and the denomination's Advance program.
The building now contains the drug depot, pharmacy, dental clinic, record room, cashier booth, six consultation rooms and two exam rooms.
The annual report said construction of the new hospital building's outpatient clinic was nearly complete, with construction of the emergency room planned next.
First United Methodist Church has worked with the church in Liberia for several years, growing from a covenant relationship between the denomination's Illinois Great Rivers Conference and the Liberia Conference.
When the Liberian church voted to build a new hospital at Ganta, the Peoria congregation agreed to raise $100,000 for that effort and accomplished that task in 90 days, according to Bias. The congregation designated $20,000 for the renovated facility and the remainder for the new building.
The congregation also collected donations of equipment from area hospitals and sent Ganta $380,000 worth of beds with wheels, gurneys and an industrial washer and dryer. "We knew that they needed equipment because much of what they had there had been taken or destroyed," the pastor said.
For example, hospital staff were using a lone refrigerator to store both food and blood, so the Peoria church provided a refrigerator strictly for surgical use. "We've had them tell us what they need," said Bias, who last visited Ganta in November. "We go out and find it here and get it to them."
Still needed is an industrial autoclave to sterilize surgical equipment - an expensive item that is hard to find used. Currently, Ganta Hospital uses two large pressure cookers for sterilization.
Because of the church's relationship with Peoria-based equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., church leaders secured a new generator "that can run on the same amount of diesel fuel than the one they had" with twice the electrical output. The church is working to obtain and ship additional equipment to get the new generator operational.
Such efforts are the norm for the Peoria congregation, which also raised $35,000 for a church building in Estonia and is the founding church for the "Walk to Emmaus" spiritual renewal program. "It's kind of the DNA of this congregation - to be in mission in a hands-on way," Bias said.
Aiding Ganta Hospital blesses the Illinois church as well, says Bias, noting that church members worked together on various projects to raise $100,000 for the Liberian initiative. "We've had more of a community spirit and an understanding of what it is to be church through the project," he said.
The Peoria congregation is excited about other ministries related to Liberia, such as providing scholarships for children. "We're convinced, as they are in Liberia ... that education is the way to get the country back on its feet," Bias said.
Ganta's new eye clinic was funded by Christian Blind Mission International. In addition to regular on-site and outreach treatment provided under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Kerkula, the clinic was part of a national eye camp initiative in Lofa County in December. Ganta's team was responsible for 33 of the 90 cataract surgeries performed during the camp.
Besides providing routine vaccinations in 2006, Ganta staff conducted diabetes awareness programs and voluntary blood testing, identifying 70 cases of diabetes during the year. "Plans are under way to initiate a national program that will create access to medication and education for all diabetics," Taryor wrote.
Other primary health-care activities included distributing mosquito nets to pregnant women and children to protect against malaria, supervising traditional midwives, conducting community-based HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, and surveying women about vesico-vaginal fistula.
Outside of church funding, the hospital received a $50,000 subsidy from the Liberian government for fiscal year 2006-2007. President Sirleaf, a United Methodist, donated food and a used ambulance in November.
Taryor said volunteer work teams still are needed to help renovate and build at Ganta and to provide guidance with medical and administrative needs.
Contributions may be made to the following Advance funds: Ganta Hospital Emergency Fuel, No. 09214A; Ganta Hospital Emergency Support, No. 10010T; and Hospital Revitalization, UMCOR Advance No. 982168.
Donations can be placed in church collection plates or mailed to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO New York, NY 10087-9068. Make credit card donations online through the Advance at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/give/advance/ or by calling (888) 252-6174.
For more information, contact Taryor at email@example.com.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: http://umns.umc.org