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INTERHOLCO SDG of the United Nations 3 INTERHOLCO SDG of the United Nations 12

 

11.02.2020. Forests worldwide are known to be rich in stories, legends and myths; places hosting unusual turns and transformations. As the most densely wooded part of Africa, the Congo Basin forest is definitely no exception. Many of its plants and trees hold cultural and spiritual values.

Does 'sustainability' mean, protecting the environment? By all means, yes. Then, harvesting trees according to its principles also means making sure the forests retain their ability to heal. With medicinal plants and trees. And with people whose vocation is, to heal.

In this story, Sustainable Hardwood from the Sangha forests empowers Annie Ayoko to take care of children's health.

Read on!

Annie Ayoko (left) cheers up a baby to whom she has just subministrated a vaccine. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.

Hundreds? Thousands! Midwife Annie Ayoko (above, left) must have lost count. Since she joined the medical centre in Ngombé as 'sage femme', as midwives are called, locally, she has not stopped doing two things: helping mothers give birth and keeping their babies safe from illness.
 
 
 The IFO medical centre in Ngombé. Over 20 staff members including Annie Ayoko work to serve the local population. © U. Binhack / Interholco. All rights reserved.
 
Built in the North of the Republic of Congo by Industrie Forestière de Ouesso (IFO), a wood producing company belonging to the international group Interholco, the medical centre primarily serves the population of Ngombé. 
 
For Annie Ayoko, this means being able to assist young mothers from the local Bantou families or even mothers from the indigenous Baka tribes, the earliest population in the region. That is, mothers and the most precious treasure any community holds: their offspring.
 
A village of about 10'000 inhabitants, Ngombé is located in the heart of the Congo forests. The fact that the site shows up on Google maps does not make Ngombé any less remote (or even isolated), at well over 900 km away from the capital city of Brazzaville. To reach Ngombé, one must find one's way in the thick forests of the North, or arrive by boat, sailing along the Sangha river, whose waters mirror the forests and on which forest trees double up.
 
 
The Sangha river at break of dawn. River waters are believed to harbour female energy. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.

The mortality rate for children treated at the IFO medical centre in Ngombé is estimated to be 3 times lower than the national average for Congo Brazzaville. 

Creating the conditions to make treatment available in remote, isolated areas is not automatic. The sustainable business model that inspires IFO and the wood products that give it economic return - in short, sustainable hardwood - make those conditions possible. 

A number of factors add up to the complexity: attracting skilled personnel such as Annie Ayoko, retaining them on site, building and maintaining much-needed infrastructure: roads, housing, transport; and, of course, finding reliable providers of much-needed medical equipment.

Earlier in 2019, when a national measles and rubella campaign kicked off in the country, Annie Ayoko rolled up her sleeves to ensure that indigenous children belonging to Baka tribes living around Ngombé would not miss out.
In a country which still knows higher mortality rates for children, this makes all the difference for isolated communities in remote areas.

 

With the village chief close by, the team is greeted by village mothers. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.

Measles and rubella vaccination aims to reduce measles mortality and morbidity in children and eliminate the risk of fetal malformations, miscarriages and fetal death due to rubella.

The national initiative aimed to protect 2.2 million children aged 9 months to 14 years, i.e. 43% of the population. The campaign received technical and financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); and the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

The vaccination materials for the campaign were supplied by UNICEF and WHO. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.

Carrying boxes with all the necessary apparel and sterilised equipment, Annie Ayoko left the IFO medical centre at break of dawn, accompanied by three more team members. Each time they arrived in a village, they were greeted by the mothers and village chief.
 
Children had mixed feelings about the visit; whilst some were more welcoming and curious, others looked downright appalled.
 
 
Vaccination campaign targeting isolated communities in the North of Congo Brazzaville. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.
 
First, Annie and her colleagues would note down the name of each child. 'Green cards' with the name and date of the vaccine were then handed over to each mother.
 
To bring back a smile after the vaccination took place, the team handed over a soft 'candy' to the youngest ones  -  actually, a deworming supplement with vitamin A.
 
Intestinal worms are known to cause anemia, hinder child development and reduce children's learning abilities.
 
 
A group of children boldly showing their 'green cards' right after vaccination. © T. Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal / Interholco. All rights reserved.
 
"With this vaccination campaign, Congo's young people will be protected against one of the world's most serious health threats to children," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Reducing premature deaths, immunization is the foundation of strong health systems. Creating the conditions for treatment to reach young offspring in remote, isolated areas is thus vital.
 
Forests worldwide are known for their medicinal trees as well as cultural and spiritual values.
 
Call this 'forest magic', if you like.
 
Sustainable Hardwood Made in Africa preserves this magic, making it possible for local personnel to take care of children's health.
 
 

About INTERHOLCO

INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.

Communications contact INTERHOLCO

Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82 

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