UMC Liberia Missions Hospital to Reopen in March

( [email protected] ) Feb 20, 2004 05:06 AM EST

Following a year of urgent prayer and hope, the United Methodist Church raised enough funds to restore some of the basic services in their Ganta Hospital in Liberia by March 15.

The Ganta Hospital was caught amid the firestorm of destruction by the Liberian government and rebel forces in 2003. Tragically, the violence came after the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries invested $300,000 in renovations, such as the installation of new water and electricity lines and addition of new buildings, during the two previous years. By May of 2003, all wings of the Hospital, excluding the leprosy unit, were completely destroyed.

The U.S. Agency for International Development had invested $1.2 million into a three-year project at Ganta Hospital for a prosthetic and orthopedic workshop, according to Jim Cox, executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief Nongovernmental Organization. The project was coming to an end, Cox said, but officials were trying to decide how to integrate the workshop into the rest of the hospital when all was destroyed.

The hospital, built in 1926, is a part of a larger UMC mission facility that includes primary and secondary schools, vocational training programs, a demonstration farm and a leprosy and tuberculosis rehabilitation unit.

Following the destruction, the board’s health and welfare department provided 40,000 in severance pay to the 150 Ganta staff members who were laid off when the facility was shut down. Operation Classroom, a United Methodist mission project, provided funds to provide two months of back pay for teachers and do minimal repairs to open the Ganta school buildings, so class is back in session for students who have returned.

Currently, the UMC is collecting special offerings to fix the hospital. Last November, Bishop John Innis of the Liberian United Methodist Church, estimated that it would take $200,000 or more just to fix the hospital infrastructure.

Cherian Thomas, an executive with the health and relief unit of the UMBGM, confirmed that while the hospital will most likely not be renovated for the rest of the year, the emergency wing, outpatient services, as well as 30 inpatient beds for maternal deliveries and medical emergencies will be opened to the public by mid March.

Herbert and Mary Zigbuo, board missionaries assigned to Liberia, reported they were able to take a truckload of building supplies to Ganta when they returned Jan. 9.

"These supplies will enable us to get a few of the buildings in livable and workable condition to reopen the hospital by March 15 as well as provide a few residences for essential mission station staff," they said in a Feb. 12 e-mail message.

Those residences are a crucial part of securing future funding, according to Thomas. "There are a number of agencies willing to help, but they want someone on the grounds," he explained.

Funding to the Ganta Hospital cause can be designated to UMCOR Advance No. 150385 and dropped in church collection plates or mailed to 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling toll free (800) 554-8583.