It is no great surprise to American basketball fans that All-Star Dikembe Mutombo of the Houston Rockets basketball team is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But what many people do not know, however is that Dikembe Mutombo has been the major force behind a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacques Mutombo is the Chairman and President of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Inc.
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation was founded in 1997 and is attempting to eradicate many childhood diseases that have virtually disappeared in developed countries while those diseases are still life threatening to children in the Congo everyday.
Often, when he finishes his basketball season Mutombo travels throughout Africa. He has spent a lot of time in Africa performing at free basketball clinics for as many as 2,000 children per day on behalf of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
It is said, "In August 1999, Mutombo and his delegation traveled to Kinshasa, DR Congo on a medical fact-finding mission. As part of the Polio Eradication Campaign in the Congo, Mutombo administered oral polio vaccine to newborns at the Kalembe-Lembe Pediatric hospital and distributed t-shirts with a written personal message encouraging parents to get their children immunized."
After Mutombo visited the Ithuteng Trust, a school for troubled and underprivileged youth in Soweto, South Africa in 2003 his foundation recently refurbished dormitories there so that children who once slept on the floor and did not have bathrooms now have a safe and comfortable place to live.
The current major project of the Foundation is the construction of a new 300 bed general hospital (named the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital city of Kinshasa. Construction on the new hospital began on September 15, 2001, and the $29 million project is scheduled to be complete by June 2006.
When it opens, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital will be the first new hospital in the Congo almost 40 years. Building this hospital, will serve one of the Foundation's most important goals, which is to improve the present public health facilities that are currently lacking in both medical supplies and trained personnel. Inadequate health facilities that may have poor sanitary conditions can pose a serious threat to both children and adults in the Congo by causing infections.
It has been said that this new hospital will bring about the most dramatic change in health care delivery not just in Kinshasa, but in the country as well. And it may even have a regional impact.
In 1987 Mutombo traveled from the DRC to the U.S. to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on an academic scholarship. His goal was to become a doctor so that he could help people back home with their health needs. Instead of becoming a doctor, he became a professional basketball player after earning degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy. But as a professional basketball player with a $68 Million contract, Mutombo was able to do what he probably could not have done as a doctor - build a 300 bed general hospital.
Because the Congo has an average life expectancy is 45 years, and the infant mortality rate is 9.6% with nearly 20% of newborn children dying before their fifth birthday, the hospital can do much more than one doctor alone could do.
In 1995, the Congo had the biggest polio epidemic of the 20th Century and there are 150,000 new infections of tuberculosis each year. There were 120,000 HIV/AIDS deaths in the Congo in 2001 and for children under 5; mortality attributable to malaria is 46%. These are more reasons why a new hospital can be more helpful than one physician.
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is building a hospital. It's a great and wonderful project being led by a great and generous man, and if you want to be a part of it, or learn more about it go to their inspirational web site.
Dikembe Mutombo Foundation. Inc.