Biyombo Extends Another Helping Hand to DRC During COVID-19 Pandemic

by Sam Perley

As an individual who’s become increasingly well known in the sporting world for his charitable and philanthropic efforts, it comes as little surprise that Bismack Biyombo is once again making a big difference in his home country during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Biyombo has pledged to donate 10,000 face masks and 780 hazmat suits to the central African nation, supplies worth roughly $1 million in value. Since NBA play was suspended on March 11, Biyombo (who is also a Players’ Association VP) has made daily calls with his foundation about how to best approach the situation.

“The virus hasn’t hit us badly yet, but we’re working to see how the government is going to respond,” said Biyombo in an interview with Hornets.com on April 1. “We’re not well-equipped medically as it is. Africa is not well-equipped. The last information I got was a little over a week ago before they started shutting things down in the Congo. We have 50 oxygen masks for the whole country. Fifty for over 80 million people. What are the chances we can overcome this if we get hit badly?”

As of April 16, there have been 267 confirmed COVID-19 cases leading to 22 deaths in the DRC, which currently ranks as the second-largest country in terms of geographical area in Africa and 11th largest overall in the world. The continent just recently crossed 16,000 reported cases and 800 deaths, a large amount coming in the north African countries of Algeria, Egypt and Morocco, according to africanews.com.

Less than 20 years removed from the Second Congo War which destabilized much of the governmental hierarchy, the DRC has struggled to combat diseases like Ebola, measles, malaria and HIV, which have taken a massive toll on the country’s already minimal supply of medical resources. Many of these ailments (as well as COVID-19) are transmitted via human contact, but like most other African countries, a ‘stay home’ policy simply isn’t feasible.

“How can we save lives and how can we prevent more people from getting infected?”, asked Biyombo. “The president announced a stay-at-home order, but at the same time, [much] of the population is jobless. They’re dependent on contacting somebody. How can people understand this idea of stabilizing the country and what we’ll have to go about doing?”

One primary focus of The Bismack Biyombo Foundation (which was established in 2016) has been the refurbishing of Congolese hospitals to the point where they’re simply meeting basic requirements. Like fellow countryman and Basketball Hall-of-Famer Dikembe Mutombo has already done, Biyombo plans to construct new medical facilities at some point once the ones already in place have been updated.

“The reality of refurbishing hospitals is we’re just getting them serviceable,” he said. “We never thought we’d have to prepare for a pandemic. Nobody expected this. Refurbishing hospitals was the last thing we wanted to do before we start building new ones. Now, the whole world is dealing with this. How can we start finding ways to get ahead of this?”

Volunteers will be distributing the supplies once they arrive in the DRC and while Biyombo’s plans to visit Africa again this summer are likely postponed, the Hornets center is still doing everything in his power to help his home country in need from afar.

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