Donated medicine arrives just in time

At a rural health clinic in Burundi, Joselyn’s only surviving child is given a second chance when World Vision delivers the medicine he needs.

Story by Kari Costanza. Photos by Jon Warren.
Published October 9, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Kizi Health Center in Gasorwe, Burundi, is out of medicine. It’s no surprise. Felicitie Nikuze, 26, who runs the health center, says it happens all the time.

“We are short of medicine most of the time,” she says, gesturing toward a wall of nearly empty shelves. “There is no medicine for diarrhea and dysentery,” she says.

And unlike in the United States — where diarrhea means a quick trip to the supermarket for Pepto Bismol — in Burundi, diarrhea often means death.

“In some cases, children die between here and the hospital because of diarrhea,” says Felicitie.

What a difference a day makes

The next day, we go back to the Kizi Health Center. A World Vision truck arrives with medicines provided by generous donors in the United States — gifts-in-kind from pharmaceutical companies.

“We need it very urgently,” says Felicitie, who is delighted with the arrival of these life-saving supplies.

Felicitie, manager of Kizi Health Center in Burundi, stands beside a row of nearly empty shelves.“There was no ORS [oral rehydration solution] before World Vision came today,” she says, holding packets of the precious solution. “We ran out four months ago.”

Her only surviving child

Joselyn Genzahayo, 25, waits patiently on a bench with a line of other mothers. She needs medicine for her 20-month-old son, Irnyitse, who has had diarrhea for three days.

“I thought it was a simple thing, but yesterday it became serious,” she says. Irnyitse is getting weaker and weaker.

Joselyn is frightened. She has already lost three children — two sons and a daughter — all of whom died at 8 months of age.

“I brought them all to the health center, but they could do nothing. I sometimes think I will lose him like I lost the others,” she says of her only surviving child.

It takes Joselyn three hours to carry her son to this clinic. It’s now about noon. Sometimes she finds out there is no medicine, so she walks to another health center another three hours away. And then she walks home — often empty-handed — which is yet another three-hour trip.

In all, the search for medicine can take Joselyn nine hours. And yield nothing. Today will be different, though. Thanks to World Vision, medicine has arrived.

‘Water for life’

Nurse Simon examines Irnyitse and prescribes Amoxicillin and oral rehydration.Joselyn and her baby are invited to the examining room. Nurse Simon Ntibatingeso, 22, diagnoses Irnyitse with severe diarrhea.

Simon picks up a packet of oral rehydration solution and gives it to Joselyn, along with directions on how to administer the solution to her son over the next 24 hours.

“We call [oral rehydration solution] ‘water for life’ because it can stop diarrhea, and that means it can save lives,” Simon explains.

And because Simon thinks the main cause of Irnyitse’s diarrhea is worms, he also gives him de-worming medicine, which had arrived at the clinic just minutes ago.

Irnyitse is so weak. He has a terrible cough and has been having trouble breathing. Simon prescribes amoxicillin as well.

No longer empty-handed

“Will he be alright?” we ask the nurse.

“I hope so,” says Simon. “Children die at home because of diarrhea.”

Irnyitse and his mother head home, medication in hand.Back in the administrative office, Felicitie is still celebrating the medicine delivery, which will last about two months. The tension is gone from her face.

“I sleep well when there’s medicine. I already feel better,” she says.

Meanwhile, Joselyn straps little Irnyitse to her back. It’s now 1:00 p.m., and she’ll be home by 4:00 p.m. Getting medicine has taken 10 hours. But, because she was here when World Vision delivered a shipment of medicine, she didn’t go home empty-handed.

Three ways you can help

Thank God for the companies that donate life-saving medicines and supplies for World Vision’s distribution network. Pray that God would encourage health workers like Felicitie and Simon, who work tirelessly to help children, even with limited resources.

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving medicines and supplies. Your gift multiplies in impact to help deliver essentials like antibiotics, de-worming medications, antifungal medicines, bandages, and other life-saving items donated by our corporate partners to help children like Irnyitse.

Sponsor a child in Burundi. Your love and support for a boy or girl in need will help provide essentials like nutritious food, clean water, and medical care.