Kibuye Hope Hospital
Building Hope and Health in Africa
Burundi, situated at the crossroads of Francophone and Anglophone Africa, the developing East African Community and the undeveloped central Africa is a nation in transition. Wracked by decades of inter-tribal violence, Burundi emerged in the early 2000s with a new constitution and a power-sharing government headed by Pierre NKURUNZIZA. Though slower than her northern cousin Rwanda to make major changes (such as making English an official national language), Burundi has begun to enjoy the dividends of peace as foreign investment and federal revenues rebound under stable direction.
The 10.8 million inhabitants of Burundi live lives of rural subsistence farming (<10% of the population live in urban centers) without electricity or improved toilet facilities. These resilient Africans face numerous challenges to breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Fewer than half of Burundian adults have completed primary school and more than half (58%) of children are stunted (irreversibly reduced in their physical and intellectual capacity) due to malnutrition in their first five years. Making it to five years old is an accomplishment in itself with infant mortality ten times higher than the US (59/1000 births vs 5.9/1000 births) and only 90% of kids reaching their sixth birthday. Reproductive and family data tell a similar story with maternal mortality forty times higher than the US (800/100,000 live births vs 21/100,000) and 11% of women entering motherhood during their teens.
And though Burundi is one of the poorest (GDP/capita is $300) and hungriest (2013 Global Hunger Fund rating) nations on earth, there are great reasons for hope. The national government sponsors health care for pregnant women and children under 5 years old, leading to substantial reductions in infant, child and maternal mortalities in the last 10 years. Compared worldwide, Burundi has made some of the greatest strides in educating itself with 98% of primary school-aged children attending school on a daily basis. What she lacks in natural resources, Burundi is determined to make up for in human resource.
The Frank Ogden School of Medicine at Hope Africa University began when President NKURUNZIZA approached Rector BUCONYORI, his friend and assistant in drafting the peace accords, to start a medical school to train physicians from Burundi, for Burundi. The rector agreed with little more than a dream and a prayer, and nine months later began classes. In a somewhat unprecedented move, Rector BUCONYORI appointed Dr Innocente IRAKOZE, a female OB/GYN, as founding dean of the medical school. It would be clear from the outset that FOSOM/HAU did not mean to do business as usual in African medical education and its students have already won a reputation for being knowledgeable and, better yet, having practical skills coveted by medical students at other institutions.
Currently, the medical school boasts 40 faculty members, 281 students and has graduated 17 doctors into the central/east African workforce. (For comparison, Burundi’s entire population of over 10 million souls is cared for by a cadre of doctors only 300 strong. As most of those have no training after medical school, a.k.a., residency training, this would be equivalent to the entire population of Los Angeles County being cared for by only the interns at its public hospitals.)
Students in the preclinical years (years 1-4) take 30 units/semester while students in their clinical years (years 5-7) spend their days (and nights) in hospitals and clinics around Bujumbura and Kibuye. FOSOM students get to rotate at all the major hospitals in the capital alongside students from the University of Burundi, the nation’s premier university. But it is at the rural Kibuye Hope Hospital and her urban sister site, the Van Norman Clinic at Hope Africa University where they get their hands-on experience in caring for the sick and wounded patients of Burundi. It is into this milieu that six specialty physicians from the US have come and committed to heal and teach. Known internationally as “the McCropders,” their presence at Kibuye Hope Hospital as professors of Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, OB/GYN, Emergency Medicine and Ophthalmology marks the opening of a new era in advanced medical education within Burundi. Beyond simply advancing the cause of clinical excellence for an underserved population, the faculty of FOSOM hopes to create the programs that train specialists in surgery and family medicine and inspire future generations to go to the unreached communities and thrive there.
Established as a mission of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi in the 40’s, Kibuye Hope Hospital (KHH) is now in the care of Hope Africa University. KHH aims to serve the community around it and has already been designated as a regional medical center. It is also the main training hospital for Hope Africa University’s medical program, and is the hospital of reference for 12 rural clinics. The hospital is currently small, with only 85 beds, but planned development will expand it to 300 beds with life saving modern technology over the next ten years.
Although the hospital deals with everything from cancer to dementia, Burundi’s most pressing health issue is a lack of basic care. Burundi currently has 300 doctors for a population just over ten million. That’s less than one doctor for every 30,000 people! This would be a desperate situation in the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, Burundi also struggles with one of the world’s highest rates of hunger and malnutrition and the medical complications that go along with it, as well as malaria and AIDS. To mitigate the complications of malnutrition the associated BUSOMA ministry provides an affordable, healthy grain mix, giving patients in the hospital access to a nutrient rich cereal. This is especially vital for vulnerable newborns and their mothers, as well as the many children cared for in the pediatrics ward.
KHH is serving nearly a tenth of Burundi’s area, providing needed emergency, primary and specialized medical care. To serve these people Kibuye Hope Hospital has an excellent staff of Burundian doctors, some even trained in HAU’s medical school, as well as dedicated specialists and visiting professionals. In addition to helping patients that come to Kibuye, doctors teach the medical students that come from HAU. As the hospital grows it will be able to serve more people, more effectively. The medical school will also benefit, as the students get more hands on experience with advanced procedures and equipment. Not only will more people in the community have access to quality medical care, more people will be trained to bring quality medical care to the rest of Burundi.
To help with that training the hospital staff was joined by the McCropders. In 2013 the McCropders, a group of five families, with six medical specialists, relocated their growing families to Burundi to serve the HAU medical students. Their additional help and knowledge are invaluable both to the patents in the hospital and the medical students whom they disciple. The McCropders are committed to making the medical program at HAU a self-sustaining source of high quality medical professionals.
Kibuye Hope Hospital exists to show God’s love, to treat the ill and injured and to raise up the next generation of medical professionals who can reach further into the community and do the same, one person at a time. Hope Africa University is committed with KHH to achieve this goal, even as the hospital expands its facilities.