Peace Nobel Prize mobilizes Portugal

Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 and an awarded-winning medical specialist, was visiting Portugal this week to receive the Doctor Honoris Causa degree which was awarded by Nova SBE on the 27th May and to participate at the Estoril Conferences.

My friend Dr. Denis Mukwege has my admiration for the work that has been done over the years against sexual violence used as a weapon of war, so I was truly motivated to challenge Nova University to honor Dr. Mukwege with a Doctor Honoris Causa.
In his speech, Professor Daniel Traça featured Dr. Denis Mukwage as a hero of hope who developed a path of empathy, action, political activism and was justly recognized for the impact of his actions with the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Dean of Nova SBE highlighted the source of inspiration that Dr. Mukwege represents for NOVA and other universities of the world, to “ breed humanism to care and determination to act”.
Dr. Denis Mukwage made justice to his reputation as a tireless defender of women’s rights and left an appeal for action:
“The road may still seem long to end sexual violence. But we remain confident in the future and human nature. The freedom of speech of the survivors makes us optimistic. We are all concerned, and each of us in our sphere of action can help put an end to rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We cannot be indifferent to the plight of the thousands of women around the world who are subjected to inhuman treatment simply because they were born women. For too long, indifference has been at the root of the omission to act. Time is no longer for indignation, but action.”

In addition i challenged Cascais City Hall to organize, with the support of Ageas Foundation, a charity dinner that took place on the 26th May and which gathered around 300 guests. Dr. Denis Mukwege shared real stories that left no one indifferent and thanked everyone present for their generosity and solidarity. Companies, entrepreneurs, civil society and Portuguese artists joined together for the cause, and raised about 170. 000 euros for the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation.

It is an honor to support and help to promote great causes like the one from my friend Dr. Denis Mukwege. It is our duty to use our influence and ability to mobilize and support those who need it the most. And this is a good example in which the generosity of the Portuguese, of our society and of the business world has been demonstrated for such a strong cause, making a difference for those we tend to forget.

Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation website

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Dr. Denis Mukwege (Nobel Peace price winner) visits Portugal

Dear Friends and Readers,

It has been a while since I published something on this blog but the event that is going to happen shortly makes it worth to appear again on this site.
About 14 months ago I introduced a file to Nova University through the kind help of Daniel Traça, Dean of Nova School of Business and Economics. We asked for Dr. Mukwege to be awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa from Nova University and it received a positive answer.
In the meantime Dr. Mukwege was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace and one can understand his agenda is completely overbooked. So we are happy and honored that Dr Mukwege will be coming to Portugal to receive the Doctor Honoris Causa on the 27th May during the Estoril Conferences.
On the 26th May we are organizing a fund-raising gala dinner together with the Municipality of Cascais and the funds collected will support the great work of Dr. Mukwege.
I am posting hereafter the invitation as well as my accompanying letter for anyone to read and maybe some of you are willing to support the project. If you want to attend the dinner (500 euro per person) you can still do so but confirmations should mandatory be done through: DrMukwege.Fundacao@ageas.pt . Any other contribution can follow the same instructions.
Needless to say I am very happy that Dr. Mukwege will be coming to Portugal.

Hereafter the invitation:

Dear You,

Dr Mukwege and the Panzi hospital in Bukavu
This good friend, Doctor Denis Mukwege, is dedicating his entire life in saving the weakest victims of the continuous gang-raping that rules the warzone of Bukavu. It is a region in the Republic of Congo where militia attack and kill without limits to ensure the extraction of minerals in the region. When Dr Mukwege was facing a raped daughter of a gang-raped mother he had treated many years before, he decided he could not remain silent about the atrocities he was witnessing every day. And so it is, that over the last 20 years, the Panzi General Referral Hospital took care of 54,471 survivors of sexual violence and 41,637 patients with gynecological pathologies.

For seven years I was board member of Doctors of the World in Belgium that was supporting the Panzi hospital. When I resigned by coming to Portugal, I decided to continue to support the project of Dr Mukwege because I admire his courage, his intelligence and his persistence in doing good for the poorest. Most of the victims who need to be treated at the hospital not only have lost everything they possess but were treated in a bestial way by the militia. I went there and will be going again this year. Although it is hard to see what humans can do to others, it can never be an excuse not to do something as the hospital is the only place of hope for many.

You can read a short bio of Dr Mukwege by following this link and to know more about Panzi hospital.

Awarded at multiple times for a noble cause
Already in 2015, Dr Mukwege received a highly respected recognition from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal and his relentless awakening of the world to the unacceptable situation that occurs in one of the most beautiful regions of Africa has been seen by many. This was reason enough to award him with a Nobel prize of Peace in 2018.

About 14 months ago, before Dr Mukwege was awarded with the Nobel prize of Peace, a file was introduced to Nova University with the request of attributing a Doctor Honoris Causa for his fantastic work at the Panzi hospital in Bukavu. The request got a positive answer and Dr Mukwege is coming to Portugal to receive this Doctor Honoris Causa on the 27th May during the Estoril Conferences at Nova School for Business and Economics in Carcavelos.

My call for you
On the 26th May we are organizing a gala dinner at Hotel Miragem in Cascais to support the noble work of Dr Mukwege and I would like to invite you to join us this fund-raising event. You and your company can sponsor his project by signing up for a table (5,000 euro), to which you can invite 10 guests. Note that the number of tables are limited, so please inform me at the soonest if you will join us in this event.
We found some very famous Portuguese painters and artists willing to support the event and they showed their generosity by donating one of their art pieces for the auction taking place during the event.

I believe that together we can give pieces and parts of light to that beacon of hope.
Dr Mukwege will be at the gala, he will speak, and you will hear how every word has been formed by all the scars he witnessed, sometimes lost but with a clear focus and achievement to cure.

Hope and looking forward in welcoming you.

Regards,

Steven

Dr.DenisMukwege

Dear donors, people who are good at heart

It has been too long for all of us to get back to you to inform you about the donations you made, now already over a year ago. Many events have occurred forcing us to change the course of action concerning the projects.

With the escalation of the civil war these past 14 months in Bukavu (one of our missions needed to be evacuated by the UN amidst grenades and heavy firing), we were confronted with a much higher number of casualties (raping + war-victims) whilst we were forced to postpone the projects related to the kitchen and the farm due to the insecurity of the area.

In light of these developments, our first preoccupation was to increase the efficiency of interventions; to open a fourth surgery room so we could service the increased number of casualties and to replace the old equipment which had become unreliable with regards to treating such large numbers of interventions at significantly increased rates.

Many of us thought that this situation would be temporary and that the initial projects would be able to be implemented when the unrest would calm down, but it did not. On the contrary, we were confronted with ever-increasing violence and number of casualties. It became unsafe to venture into the country side where we were negotiating to acquire the farmland that would provide food for the kitchen.

I hope all of you understand that in light of this deteriorated situation, we needed to change our plans accordingly. This meant establishing new priorities and postpone the initial projects for a later time. We will continue to work onwards towards a future as the hospital needs all the help it can get. The hospital has become the only safe-heaven where people can get help in the entire region (the size of France). Most of the people brought to the hospital have been gang raped, received bullet wounds and hacked by machetes, have no means to pay. That is the moment we are stepping in, with the money we are collecting, and that you have graciously donated.

To conclude, I will share a video that was made at the very moment a new surgery-column arrived at the hospital.

Thanks to your donations we managed to open a fourth surgery room.

As mentioned, due to the drastic deterioration of the situation in Bukavu, we are refocusing our efforts towards increasing the efficiency of the hospital in combination with increasing the life-quality of the patients.

Keep an eye on my link as the video will appear soon.

Again, thank you for your patience and contributions.

From the heart.

Steven

Summerholidays: Water. H2O

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Where are the days where a VIP could pick up a stick, hit a rock twice and water would flow abundantly downhill; build an ark because of too much rain and end the journey on top of Mount Ararat. The Romans built beautiful bridges across rivers that today are completely dried out and the Flemish soaked poppy-land during the Great War.

Problems in Sicilia, other parts of Italy, Spain and the latest catastrophic fire in Portugal where 64 people perished (and where our claims-teams did a wonderful job by the way) combined with the Larsen-C plate that risks disappearing while creating new eco-systems. Worrying facts like in Flanders (Belgium) where farmers are already forbidden to use water for growing their crops in June and China where in huge parts of the country groundwater is at its lowest. The UK used to have a flood once a year and now it has become an exceptional month if there is no flooding…….water,water,water.

Well, all of the above invites you this year to pay special attention to “water” wherever the roads might take you during these holidays.

As a child I could catch sticklebacks and salamanders (to exchange you needed three normal salamanders for one King salamander) ten meters from our front door. The holidays to Spain in the 60´s took 3 full days but rivers were plenty with water. These were the days when Paco Camino and El Cordobes were still the favorites of the country in the bull fights. Nowadays when you travel through Spain, apart from certain areas, the rest has become a desert and when you see a green patch somewhere there are huge pumps standing like guards around the field taking the water from deep inside the earth. If it was not for that……nothing would grow on the land.

When crossing a dam in your journey you might take a closer look and observe how far the water is from its highest point and ask around if it is the normal level for the season. Going to the market to buy vegetables you might take a couple of minutes more to talk with the farmer about how the climate has changed over the years and how he reacted to it. Is the water supply in your hotel limited between certain hours and was it always like this? How much does a bottle of water cost? When you see a flock of sheep it might be an idea to park the car and to talk with the shepherd for a while and find out what his problems are and how they have changed over the years. What does the wheat look like in the fields? The tomatoes…the potatoes…..

Why would Ludovico Einaudi perform his “Elegy for the Arctic”   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DLnhdnSUVs ) on his piano between the icebergs if it was not a musical cry to the world about the changes that occur so fast?

Unfortunately water has become a strategic asset that will influence decisions at a world level. The political agenda in Israel (not having water) or Turkey (having most of it for the region) will be more and more concentrated on the ones “who have” and the ones “who have not” and will become a top priority on the strategic agenda while oil refineries and oil reserves will move down on the agenda. Big multinationals are since decennia in hidden fights to buy the local water you are drinking. Have a look on the bottle and you might be surprised which company owns the nearby plant.

Water….we consider it a given. Maybe it was, but it will not remain so……on the contrary. Water will turn into gold.

If you are open for new encounters…..have a talk with the ones you would not normally chat with and you might have a great experience talking about water. In the end humans’ main building block is “water”………humans’ biggest need to survive is “water”………

And…….when you jump into the swimming-pool or cool yourself down with a cold glass of water you might enjoy and appreciate it even a little more.

Enjoy your well-deserved holidays and thanks to all of you for investing so much energy into our common goal!!! Take a dive deep into the cold water!

Proost

News…

Dear all,

It is sad news that I bring to all of you today.

Last week the gynecologist Gildo Byamungu Magaju was murdered in his house in the city of Kasonga. Doctor Byamungu was a colleague of Doctor Mukwege.

Doctor Byamungu was the head of the hospital of Kasonga that was in close cooperation with the Hospital Panzi . Doctor Byamungu was heavily wounded and transported to a specialized hospital in Bujumbura. However arriving at the border he was not allowed to cross the border and died.

Doctor Byamungu was threatened since a couple of months because he alerts the world (as Dr Mukwege does) of the systematic raping that takes place in his region. A topic the government refuses to put on its agenda.

The order of Doctors of the Province of South Kivu has called for a general strike and asks for a neutral investigation under international supervision.

panzi_april2017The picture was sent to me by a friend.

It is also great news that I bring to all of you today.

Thanks to many of you I have been able to close the first project. The money will be transferred shortly to Doctor Mukwege by Guy-Bernard Cadière and a follow up report of this will follow shortly to all of you on this blog. Thanks again.

Up to the following project!!!

Have a great day

Steven

 

Day 7 – Belgium – Portugal

panzi-hospital-logo-600x600img-20161125-wa0002

Before leaving to the Panzi-hospital in Bukavu, now a week ago, I had put three objectives for myself:

1. Register an interview with Benjamin Cadière and witness the added value he gives on the ground with the money we raised. (done)

2. Walk and talk on the ground to feel, smell and taste what is living in this forgotten region robbed from its minerals by all. (done)

3. Have an interview with Doctor Mukwege to find out his next priorities in building out the Panzi Hospital. (done)

Thanks to Professor Cadière and Doctor Mukwege I was allowed to walk freely in the hospital and steered many discussions towards the needs of the hospital.

When certain requirements came often….I penned them down in my little notebook, if I encountered it only once….I left it for what it was.

Without going into enlarging the hospital from 450 patients to 600 patients or any other “substantial” investment, I wrote down 7 recurrent needs for a total, on the back of an envelope, of about USD 500.000.

I was quite satisfied during the interview with Doctor Mukwege that the four most urgent needs he put forward for the hospital were on my list. I will shortly explain in today’s blog what those four are about and will add a fifth one myself.

 

1. A kitchen for the patients (450 up to 600) and the school (550) 12,000 USD.

a. A classical intervention or by laparoscopy asks a lot of a human body. The body burns extra calories for wounds to heal which makes adequate nutrition a cornerstone for a quick and good recovery. The patient can be helped for his or her wounds or diseases in the hospital but if no family cooks for them a “decent” meal a day it limits the recovery of the patient. Many patients have been rejected by their families, 70% of the patients cannot pay 1 USD for their total stay at the hospital putting a high risk at the kind of meals they find. Key for the hospital to increase its success and for the patients to recover faster is a well-organized centralized kitchen that has control over the nutrition.

b. You have seen some pictures of the school and its 550 children that follow classes at the small school. A protein rich meal per day is here also a key element for success in the development of the children.

 

2. A farm that can deliver the daily needs for the kitchen. 15,000 USD

Building a kitchen and buying all utensils is maybe the easiest part of the nutrition program. The hardest part is creating a farm that is big enough to become profitable after 3 to 4 years. Similar as Christine who built a farm that makes the City of Joy independent, the purpose of this project is similar. The idea is to start small (400 chickens, 3 cows, a vegetable garden…) to give the necessary experience before building it out professionally (additional amount will be needed) so that it is again a place where women can be integrated in the local economy by creating jobs and become profitable.

 

3. Pre-screening. 20,000 USD

Intervening at an early stage of an illness or prevention is non-existent in the Kivu- region. In most of the cases, even when sexual violence is involved, people arrive too late at the hospital with multiple complications.

Doctor Mukwege together with Benjamin Cadière would like to launch a prevention program where people receive a free screening during one morning a week. The hospital would keep the data of the screening. However when it results that a screened person needs an intervention at the hospital, there is a need of a fund that can take care of the financing of the treatment if the person has no money, which is in most of the cases. Today the hospital is unable to take in additional patients as its limited financial situation does not allow subsidizing them. Due to the nature of the project there would be a regular need to refill this fund. There is no past experience on this approach.

 

4. Renovate the dormitories 130,000 USD

It was explained that the original capacity for the hospital was for 150 patients and now holds 450. Patients with different pathologies lay in dormitories of 15 to 30 increasing the risk of infection. Due to the lack of a central kitchen a member of the family needs to be around to cook for the family-member increasing the risk of infection. Building rooms for 3 to 5 beds where patients with similar pathologies could be sleeping would increase the success-rate at the hospital and reduce substantially the usage of the morgue.

Next to two small operational units for caesarian interventions (40,000 USD), the renewal of the operational block (130,000 USD), a fund for micro-finance to help the women establish a proper activity (20,000 USD), build a new school that has become far to small (not calculated), build new blocks to enlarge the hospital to 600 patients, I would like to add a small additional small project to the four Doctor Mukwege pointed out.

 

5. Today there are 3 intervention rooms but no room where patients can wake up from the narcosis once the intervention is over. Along the whole week I heard Maxime, Guyber, Lizette, Benjamin, Hadia, Amaury and Marc complain that the operative room was occupied by the patient until he woke up. As this takes on average 1 hour this means a loss of at least one additional intervention per room per day or 15 additional patients that could have been treated during the five days if an additional room is installed in the operative block. 7,000 USD

Here ends my blog for the one week I spent in Panzi-hospital. I committed to take up my pilgrimage staff during my free time to support the initiative of this remarkable man. I do not ask myself “if” Doctor Mukwege should receive the Nobel prize for peace but “when” he will be recognized for the work he does.

This evening I am flying back from Brussels to Lisbon. Tomorrow morning the professional life calls.

Steven