5 min read

Celebrating 28 years in DRC

July 10, 2024
by Medair
Medair's impact on the Congolese health system.

Since 1996, Medair has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mainly in the east of the country, an area particularly affected by armed conflict. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 6 million people have fled their villages, fearing for their lives. Today, they are still living in camps for the displaced or with host families, according to OCHA figures.

Over the years, Medair has actively supported the healthcare sector. Although the health system is in place at the community level, it’s often overwhelmed when faced with a massive influx of patients. This means that the skills that have been acquired need to be adapted to the context, so that health workers can operate effectively.  

This is where Medair comes in.  

Here is an example of the impact Medair can have in a health centre.  

A building with a sign on the frontDescription automatically generated
The Shari health centre in the Rwampara health zone © Daniel Wakandu

In Shari, a village 30 minutes from the town of Bunia, we met with Chantal Kasemire, the head nurse at the Shari health centre, a post not often occupied by women.  

A mother of 5, Chantal is called "Mama Yetu" ("mother of all" in the local language) by the patients she meets, whom she greets warmly. She keeps that warm smile throughout the interview, as she shares her thoughts on Medair's collaboration with health centres in conflict-affected areas.  

Nurse at the shari Health Centre, Chantal sitting in her office. © Daniel Wakandu


Have you worked with Medair in the past? What was your experience like in previous projects?

I already worked with Medair in 2022. That experience significantly helped the local population. At that time, inter-ethnic clashes were ravaging the surrounding areas, and we received many displaced people, creating a situation of vulnerability. They couldn't access healthcare because they couldn't afford it. That's how Medair came to our aid.

There are still traces of Medair's visit to our facility. The sanitation of our facility, in accordance with recommended hygiene standards, came from them. A health centre can become as dangerous as an epidemic if it doesn't meet the highest standards. The development of the waste area, the construction of the toilets... all this has had a significant impact on our facility.  

Medair is now back in your Shari health area. Can you describe the humanitarian situation in your area in March 2024?

Medair's return to our health area is not a gift, but an urgent and necessary response to the humanitarian situation here. There is an IDP site in Shari that has become like an open-air prison for these communities. 17,890 people live there. They cannot return to their respective communities because of the persistence of inter-ethnic conflicts in their villages of origin. Added to this is the demographic growth of the local community. In just a few years, the population has doubled. At 26,191, we have already exceeded the norm of 10,000 inhabitants for a health centre. The sum of these two situations places a responsibility on Shari that exceeds its initial capacity. 44,081 inhabitants is well above the norm for a rural health centre like ours.

© Daniel Wakandu

This figure is explained by a circumstantial population due to the movement of displaced people. Faced with this situation, health aid became urgent, and Medair is one of the most responsive partners to come to our aid. They came to assess the situation and responded favourably to our cries of alarm. We’re delighted to be starting a new project with Medair.

“Every molecule administered will mean a life saved in this community, which is a victory.”

How do you think Medair's support will help transform the lives of the local community?

Free healthcare will help people a lot. In the past, we recorded cases of death in the community due to lack of access to quality care. In addition, there were children under 5 suffering from acute malnutrition who we couldn't fully treat because of a lack of inputs. In my opinion, health is the most precious thing a person can hope for and preserve! We can't do anything if we're not healthy. Every box of medicines we receive from Medair, every molecule administered, will mean a life saved in this community. That's already a victory for me. Free access to healthcare means a lot to this community.

What are the priority needs for your health area?

Glory be to God for the free access to healthcare we have, it's significant. The health centre is still drowning from the influx of patients. In the maternity ward, for example, we only have 4 beds for deliveries, which reached 105 in March 2024 alone. With free care, we’re expecting an influx of cases. Unfortunately, our capacity is still minimal, and we have not yet established the appropriate infrastructure to provide effective care for these pregnant women. There is still a need.

A woman waiting for a consultation © Daniel Wakandu

“Medair has a reputation for giving its all to the communities it serves, and their presence in this region over the years has had such an impact on generations of nurses.”

As a healthcare professional, how is Medair an asset to your work?

Medair's presence is not only beneficial to the local communities who come for treatment, but it is also necessary for us as health professionals. For me personally, Medair gave me a dedicated commitment to humanitarian aid. I see them here at the health centre, behind me and my teams, pushing us to do even more. They are there for us in the difficulties we face, and they pass on their know-how to us by being there for us. This regular follow-up is a quality that I appreciate at Medair and one that I have personally adopted for my career as a nurse. Medair has a reputation for giving their all to the communities they serve, and their presence over the years in this region has had such an effect on generations of nurses, myself included. For that, I am grateful.

A mother receives medicine for her child at the Shari health centre. © Daniel Wakandu

By the year 2024, Medair will have been present in the DRC for 28 years, working at the heart of humanitarian crises that have weakened the health system. This testimonial from Chantal, a permanent nurse in a health centre, illustrates Medair's impact on the Congolese health system during these years of intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2022 alone, 730,645,1 people were helped in Medair-supported health centres, along with the communication of know-how and, above all, a dedicated commitment to communities in need.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair's programme and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.  

July 10, 2024
by Medair
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