Global Atlanta repost: MedShare Strengthens Ties With Congo-Kinshasa


On April 20, 2011, MedShare was pleased to welcome His Excellency Dr. Victor Makwenge Kaput, Minister of Health, Democratic Republic of Congo and Dr. J. M. Kalonji, Multi-Sector Advisor, Ministry of Heath. They visited MedShare to discuss future container shipments to Congo. Dr. Makwenge detailed their current healthcare system and struggles, and his plans to improve it.

Global Atlanta’s Ann Cantrell covered the visit, and we wanted to share her article with you.

MedShare Strengthens Ties With Congo-Kinshasa

By Ann Cantrell

The Democratic Republic of the Congo that has been ravaged by years of war and suffers from an inadequate health care system will be receiving much needed medical supplies from an Atlanta-based charity, which is strengthening its ties with the CentralAfrican country.

As part of its mission to provide poorer countries with surplus medical supplies from the U.S., MedShare International will be sending three 40-foot containers from Decatur to the impoverished country by the end of May.

Valued somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000, each container will have supplies such as sonographic and X-ray machines, patient monitoring systems and equipment used to administer anesthesia during surgeries.

Since 2004, MedShare already has sent 25 containers to the Congo, but even this sizable contribution has been woefully inadequate to serve the needs of the country’s 71 million inhabitants.

“In the United States, $8,047 was spent on health care per person in 2009. By comparison, the Democratic Republic of the Congo spends $4 per person … Situations like this are why MedShare is here,” David Pass, MedShare’s chief advancement officer, told GlobalAtlanta.

In keeping with its growing relationship with MedShare, Victor Makwenge Kaput, the Congo’s minister of health,  and two other representatives from the ministry, visited the headquarters on April 20 to tour the facility and discuss future partnerships.

Nell Diallo, vice president of corporate and international relations, told GlobalAtlanta they are seeking corporate sponsors and have begun discussions with the Coca Cola Co., Western Union Co., and DHL Express, an international mail service, to assist with shipping and funding.

MedShare depends on corporate and private sponsors to fund its operations of gathering leftover medical supplies and equipment from hospitals in the U.S. and redistributing them in underserved communities. The organization has sent containers to more than 30 countries including Afghanistan, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Victor Makwenge Kaput, the Democratic Republic of Congo's minister of health, at MedShare's headquarters in Decatur.

During his visit to the MedShare headquarters and disribution facility, Mr. Kaput outlined some of the health problems in the country to Ms. Diallo, Mr. Pass, A.B. Short, CEO and co-founder and other staff,

Each year, 350,000 children in the Congo do not live past five-years and 3,600 women pass away due to pregnancy complications, according to the health minister. “Each second, children die because of no medical care. Each second, women die because of pregnancy complications,” he added.

According to Mr. Kaput, there are also 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS and many suffer from malaria.

After years of war involving half-a-dozen neighboring countries, he said the health care system was decimated. And even though the war officially ended in 2003, the conflict continued within the country particularly in the east, eventually killing more than 5 million people in the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

Years of war destroyed the infrastructure of hospitals and clinics and the government only provides the Ministry of Health with $70 million a year for expenses, Mr. Kaput said, adding that $70 million would not even be sufficient to fund the construction of a single hospital.

Due to the lack of government funding, the ministry looks to non-profits, non-governmental organizations and religious groups for funding, equipment and physicians, he said.

More than 80 percent of its funding comes from these organizations, like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, bringing its budget in the Congo from $1 to $4 for each person per year, he said.

Mr. Kaput said he wants to increase this amount to $14 per person each year, repair damaged public hospitals, improve distribution of supplies to rural areas, bring more doctors to the country and re-develop medical research programs.

Working towards these goals, he added that the health ministry is working with South Africa to bring back thousands of Congolese doctors that relocated during the wars and increase their salary from $200 to $1,000 per month.

The health minister and his colleagues concluded their visit to Medshare with a tour of the warehouse and distribution center.

For more information, visit http://www.medshare.org.

Thanks to Global Atlanta for the great coverage! We look forward to working with the Minister to improve healthcare in the DRC.

To view photos of the Minsiter’s visit, click here.

MedShare Highlights Service to Women for International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, this month we’ll highlight the women around the world that MedShare serves.

Dr. Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital

International Women’s Day (IWD) began in the early 1900’s when their oppression and inequality began spurring them on to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. What originated with 15,000 women marching through New York City seeking shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights has become an official holiday in many of the countries we serve. IWD is celebrated on March 8 every year, as hundreds of events occur throughout the world to mark the economic, political, and social achievements of women.

Women play an important role in MedShare on both the operational and receiving ends. We have almost 20 female employees on staff, and many of our volunteers are women, too. While we take pride in serving both men and women, we’d like to highlight a few special women’s facilities in honor of IWD. In some developing nations, women are often not recognized as equal to men, and they are often victims of discrimination. Maternal healthcare in these countries is lacking, and the women often suffer as a result. According to the Global Health Council, for instance, more than 99 percent of the estimated 536,000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world.

MedShare regularly ships tractor-trailer size containers of medical supplies and equipment to maternal health centers around the world. Some recent notable shipments have gone to maternity hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, and Haiti. These medical facilities each provide much-needed healthcare to women and children, and MedShare is proud to provide them with life-saving supplies and equipment.

Santa Rosa Hospital, Ecuador

The Santa Rosa Maternity Hospital in Ecuador was the recipient of MedShare’s 500th container shipment in November 2009. The hospital staff struggle to care for the town’s maternal infant population with limited supplies, equipment, and staff resources. They were so appreciative of this container that the community celebrated its arrival with a ceremony. We were especially excited to provide the Santa Rosa Maternity Hospital with a much-needed infant incubator – the hospital’s first emergency evacuator. Our Southeastern Regional Council sponsored the container, and employees Josh Kravitz and Amanda Paniagua were fortunate to be in Ecuador as the container arrived. Commenting on the trip, Amanda said, “It was so rewarding to see our medical shipments actually being used on patients and to hear how they are so instrumental in helping these hospitals provide quality healthcare.”

Last September, a container left for the Panzi Hospital in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Located in Kivu province, the Panzi Hospital is providing relief and surgeries to treat victims of sexual violence and traumatic fistula. It’s 334-bed medical center is the home to two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege, one of the Eastern Congo’s only gynecologists. Despite the hospital’s pioneering work, supply shortages are an ongoing problem, and we were proud to have provided a container of supplies to support their surgeries that treat victims of sexual violence and repair traumatic fistulas. Panzi Hospital is located in a war-torn area and highlights MedShare’s expertise in getting supplies into some very challenging places.

Most recently, we shipped a container of medical supplies and equipment to Project Medishare’s new maternal health center in Haiti. This container was shipped from our Western Distribution and Volunteer Center in San Leandro, CA on Valentine’s Day, and marked the 50th container shipment from this MedShare location. Project Medishare for Haiti is a nonprofit dedicated to achieving quality healthcare and development services by sharing resources with its Haitian partners. MedShare’s Valentine’s Day gift to Project Medishare was the second container of medical supplies and equipment we have sent to support this vital maternal health center. The first container was sent in 2010 in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Both contained critically-needed items such as hospital beds, suture, gloves, gowns, masks, thermometers, exam tables, laptop computers, and baby incubators that were hand-selected by the recipient. The clinic is located in the Central Plateau of Haiti and will open this spring.

As a MedShare supporter, thanks for everything you do to enable these shipments. To honor the women in your life on International Women’s Day, click here to contribute to MedShare.

This story is an excerpt from our March e-newsletter. Click here to read the entire newsletter, featuring stories of an inspiring volunteer and medical mission trip to Gondar, Ethiopia.