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Joint press release

NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and BD commemorate opening of new center to improve HIV/AIDS treatment in the DRC

KINSHASA, DRC, 26 August 2009 – The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center (BMMH), in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) today launched two Centers of Excellence - an Immune System Monitoring Laboratory and an Occupational Safety Centre for Health Workers - at the state of the art medical facility founded by NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo.  The safety center will train more than 300 clinicians, and the new laboratory will improve monitoring and treatment of patients living with HIV/AIDS. 
Mr. Mutombo was joined at the opening ceremonies by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, BD Executive Vice President Gary Cohen, and the DRC Minister of Public Health, Mwami Mopipi Mukulumany. The Center is an expansion of the BMMH, an acute care hospital which opened in 2007 and provides care to thousands of patients each year in a region of the world where over five million people have died from violence, hunger and disease since 1998. 
“The doctors and nurses at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital are saving lives every day and helping improve health care in the DRC which has been ravaged by more than a decade of war and disease,” said Mr. Mutombo.  “These Centers of Excellence are an important milestone in improving the quality of life for those who live with HIV/AIDS and in training new health care workers to help prevent the spread of disease.”
The new Centers will provide laboratory equipment, reagents and training to improve immune system monitoring, an essential component of treating people living with HIV/AIDS. To help ensure the safety of healthcare workers at the facility, DMF will develop a Department of Occupational Health and a Regional Training Center at the BMMH.  BD, in collaboration with the University of Virginia, will help implement the Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet™) surveillance system to monitor occupational injuries at BMMH.  BD will also provide a range of safety-engineered injection and safety-engineered blood collection devices as well as laboratory and occupational safety training for at least 330 healthcare workers.
“The problems of pandemic disease prevalence and occupational risks to health workers exist throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but pose particular challenges in countries emerging from conflict,” said Mr. Cohen.  “We are proud to partner with Dikembe Mutombo, and to support his efforts to provide essential medical care to the people of Kinshasa and DRC, his home country.”

The World Bank estimates that nearly 70 per cent of the population of the DRC is living on $1.25 or less a day.  Around half a million children under the age of five die every year in the DRC.  Most of these deaths are from largely preventable causes, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition and measles. Over one million people in DRC are living with HIV/AIDS. Sexual violence of the most brutal form has been carried out against tens of thousands, over half of them children.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo remains one of the poorest countries in Africa with poverty, conflict and disease contributing to a public health crisis for the country’s most vulnerable people,” said Ms. Veneman.  “Partnerships such as the one we recognize today are addressing this devastating situation and help provide an infrastructure for expanded care and services to those who otherwise would not have access to these life-saving resources.”
The UNICEF Executive Director also commended Mr. Mutombo for his dedication and commitment to his home country.
“It is such an honor to be here today at the hospital founded in the memory of Dikembe’s mother,” said Ms.Veneman.  “He is a true friend of UNICEF and his dedication for his home country is an inspiration to us all.   Dikembe continues to give a voice to the voiceless people of Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Through the work of a broad collaboration of partners including UNICEF, government, the private sector, NGOs, religious leaders and communities, progress is being made in the DRC but much work remains to be done, especially in reaching the “hard-to-reach” given the size and the limited infrastructure of the country. Community based integrated health programs are providing life saving interventions that include: vaccination of  5 to 7 million children each year against polio, measles and other diseases; vitamin A supplementation for 11 million children aged between 6 and  59 months: insecticide treated mosquito nets to protect against malaria; nutritional treatment for 320,000 acutely malnourished children, including 60,000 affected to a severe degree in 2008; de-worming tablets for 9 million children;  access to clean drinking water in rural communities; and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.    
Attn broadcasters: VNS and b-roll is available at: www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

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About the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Foundation strives to accomplish this goal not only by providing comprehensive health care at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, but also through an emphasis on primary health care and disease prevention, the promotion of health policy, health research and increased access to health care education for the people of the Congo. www.dmf.org
About BD
BD is a leading global medical technology company that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. The Company is dedicated to improving people's health throughout the world. BD is focused on improving drug delivery, enhancing the quality and speed of diagnosing infectious diseases and cancers, and advancing research, discovery and production of new drugs and vaccines. BD's capabilities are instrumental in combating many of the world's most pressing diseases. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, BD employs approximately 28,000 people in approximately 50 countries throughout the world. The Company serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry and the general public. www.bd.com
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. www.unicef.org

For more information, please contact: 
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel + 1 212 326 7452,
E-mail: kdonovan@unicef.org      

Susan M. Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Inc.
Tel + 866 289 2108,
E-mail: mutombo@dmf.org





26 August 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the inauguration of the new ‘centres of excellence’ at Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa, DR Congo.
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