Cotonou is the economic center of western Africa but it is behind in many ways. In the morning, the exhaust from numerous motorcycles can smoke up one’s nostrils. Beside the relatively well-maintained government complex buildings, there exists run-down building loosely made of slate or cement.
The residents mostly use well water or scoop up river water as drinking water. In many cases however, there are dumping grounds or slaughter houses beside the rivers, in which sanitation of water cannot be assured. The cleanest water found is pure water sold in plastic bags. They are also unaware of medical treatment and sanitation. Hence, there were such situations in which a pregnant woman swallowed raw lime powder for the purpose of consuming calcium.
Besides malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, AIDS, etc., there is an illness that has recently become an issue even in Korea through the Good News Medical Volunteer. It is a type of chronic wasting disease called Buruli ulcer that usually occurs in the limbs and eats up the skin so that it rots. It damages the body and infects the bones in the end, leading to fatality. If diagnosed at its early stages, it can be cured to a certain amount. However, it is difficult to diagnose such necrotic diseases at its early stages when people here usually neglect, use folk remedies, or rely on shamans for most diseases.
In February, 2015, Benin President Yani Boni sent an envoy to the IYF in Korea, delivering a personal letter requesting to build a youth center for the youths of Benin as he will provide 10 ha of land. In March, the ground breaking ceremony was held with the President of Benin and other cabinet ministers and an MOU was signed with the Health Ministry to eradicate Buruli ulcer.
A year after this event, a 3 storied, 3,000 m² scale multi-purpose youth center was completed by the work of the personnel and volunteers of IYF Benin Branch. On the 1st floor of this building, a 660m² scaled Saenara Medical Center opened and treatment of various necrotic diseases will take place first.
In local time on the 15th, the first historic treatment finally began. At news that the Medical Center had opened, 40 patients gathered from morning and filled the waiting area. Most of them were patients from last year in August when the Good News Medical Volunteer had carried out medical activities. Diseases do not discriminate patients. Patients are various from little children to women and elders.
As the building was completed, the medicine and equipment from Korea arrived, personnel were added, and the Medical Center started to take its structure. The volunteer nurses from Korea are thoroughly training the local nurses on how to handle the patients. Good News Medical Volunteer Secretary General, Jang Seon Song expressed his hopes, “I hope for Benin Saenara Medical Center to be successfully operated to take its place as an excellent role model and other African countries to continue establishing such medical centers.”
Last March after the ground breaking ceremony, the locals are also surprised at how quickly the construction had ended since the layout in August. It was construction work that seemed impossible at first but everyone overcame each and every burden and difficulty with faith in order to save the precious lives that God has given us. However, what’s more important than the physical life is the life of the heart and soul. The medical staff and personnel in Saenara Medical Center work with energy as they look forward to the people of Benin to not only fix their physical illness but also to become freed from the illness in their hearts, and gain new life in their soul.