Roger Basungeli is a very experienced community health worker. He has seen so much misery and pain during his seven years as the head of the Palliative Care program at HEAL Africa. Roger’s job involves caring for the dying and the chronically ill. He brings what little comfort he can to those who are suffering or near the end of their life. He is the father of five children, calm, considerate and quietly goes about his difficult work without complaint. He doesn’t like having to “pester people for help” as he puts it. But today, Roger is upset and nearing the end of his patience. The Palliative Care program has reached the end of its funding, and new sources have not yet been identified. It’s not the kind of program that’s easy to find funding for – there are no measurable results or success stories. Roger, a champion for his patients who are forgotten by most everyone else, says “They trusted us, but we have to give them up. Can you imagine what this means?” Roger and his fellow workers in the community of Goma, DR Congo, have run out of all of the supplies and medicines they use to alleviate the discomfort of those dying or suffering from HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. “We do not even have a single pill to alleviate a headache”, he explains.
Roger continues to explain what has happened since their funding has come to a close. “Several thousand patients are suffering,” he says, “some may die even faster without our help”. The hardest part for him is when patients come to his office and ask why he can’t help them anymore. One woman asked “Are you no longer our friend?” He gave her money out of his own pocket, even though without funding for the program, even his small salary is in jeopardy. The other painful piece for him is when he visits patients who the program can no longer provide the medicines and support they need. One woman needed a catheter. Without it, she is ashamed to be seen by her children and will often go days without eating or drinking. Roger continues to visit her and her family and says “It makes me feel sick to see her suffering like that.”
Roger concludes by saying “With only a dollar or two per patient we could start our work again”.
We in the US office received the above story from our staff in Goma last week. We were able to send some emergency money from our general fund to help keep this program going for another few months. In addition, we are actively pursuing a more permanent source of funding for Roger and his team. If you would like to help support Roger and the Palliative Care program at HEAL Africa, you can visit our donation page here, and donate to “the Mercy Fund”. In the memo put “palliative care” and we’ll make sure the support is passed on. Many thanks for your partnership and compassion.