DRC: NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo, UNICEF Executive Director and BD commemorate opening of new center to improve HIV/AIDS treatment
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.
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