When Katherine left for Mulolo last November, on top of her jeep was a large rectangular object hidden by a rain-proofing tarpaulin. The mysterious object was one of six we have distributed to Baptist hospitals to lower costs and improve medical services. Your great grandmother would have rejoiced to can her vegetables with one.
In the United States, medical services reuse nothing, but rather, dispose of everything. In Congo we reuse everything, – even exam gloves. That means that hospitals do a lot of sterilization. We sterilize surgical instruments, white cross bandages, and rubber gloves. Most Baptist hospitals are off the electric grid so sterilization takes place in a pressure cooker, using wood or charcoal for heat. You can imagine it is time consuming to obtain the right temperature for sterilization using an open fire. Insufficiently sterilized dressings and instruments lead to serious infections, so the stakes are high.
Hence, when we heard that IMA Worldhealth was procuring highly efficient “rocket stove” sterilizers for a large health project in Congo, we tacked on an order for six units for our Baptist hospitals. We had no idea what a tremendous blessing these would be.
Every hospital that received a “rocket” sterilizer reports that, compared to an open fire, the units sterilize in half the time with half the effort, and use only a quarter of the wood.
We delivered the first one to Nselo, where Dr. Yvon received it with some dismay. Deforestation in the lower Congo is extensive. Virtually all the trees in that province have been cut down and turned into charcoal for Kinshasa’s voracious cooking needs. At Nselo, they send a bicyclist twenty miles to buy bundles of sticks for sterilization. His team discovered that 2lbs of wood, with this apparatus, will sterilize enough equipment for surgery for the whole week. Whereas they used to send their bicyclist off twice a week in search of wood, he now runs that errand only once a month.
The Vanga hospital nutrition center prepares high protein meals every day for 200 under-nourished children and diabetic patients, using enormous pots bigger than a turkey fryer. In the past they used two large bundles of increasingly expensive fire wood each day for meal preparation. Now, with the rocket stove, a bundle of fire wood lasts two days.
These super-efficient stoves cost $1700, including shipping and customs delivered to Congo. The impact on the environment and medical services by these sterilizers would not have been possible without your generous gifts to our Congo medical equipment fund. On behalf of our medical directors and thousands of surgery patients we say “Thank you!”