Stories

Going the extra mile to save lives

Aid worker Moise rests his tired and sore feet from walking in one of the forest of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Life of a Congolese aid worker:  “Work satisfaction is going the extra mile to save lives. It is not just how much you take home for your family.”

Aid worker, Moise, weathered nine days of travelling, including a dangerous walk into the wild forest to reach out to people suffering from cholera in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

“In May, a health staff member from one of the remote health zones in Nord Kivu Province came to Medair office, asking if the organisation can provide assistance for people suffering from cholera.  He reported over 60 cholera cases with 10 deaths in the area.

“Medair responded to the call. My colleague Martyn, who is a medical supervisor and I, heed to the call to respond.

“I admit I was hesitant to go. I knew that going there is difficult as it takes various mode of transportations to reach the place. Also, COVID-19 complicates an already complicated situation.

“However, the idea of helping fellow Congolese won me over. In my mind, Medair goes to some of the most remote places to help people in great need. This is what I am here for.

“We left Goma, the capital city of Nord Kivu Province in eastern DR Congo, just a day before the city imposed a lockdown due to COVID-19.

“We were pressed for time. I was not prepared to go, but we could not afford not to leave, knowing that people were dying with no medicines available at the health facility in the village.

“Martyn and I weathered long and bumpy drives and risky boat rides for a couple of days, but the trip didn’t end there.

“We needed to walk in a dangerous wild forest all day with torches to lead the way. We continued the journey along with over 70 fellow Congolese from Ibanga who came to Itebero to volunteer in carrying about 2,000 kilos of essential medicines, fluids and medical supplies. Each volunteer carried an average of 30 kilos on their backs, wearing plastic rain boots.

“We had feet sore from walking under the rain and scorching sun. Since the trip was a race against time, the team just took a break to eat, drink water and rest for the night.

“We ate cassava and dried fish in between walking, drunk water from the river and slept in strangers’ huts at the villages we passed by.

“I admit I was scared, especially when we came across serpents and gorillas in the forest, but I found comfort in our volunteers who accompanied and helped us carry the medicines to reach the health facility. Most of those who walked with us,  one or two of their family members were suffering from cholera.

“Everyone had a common goal. We wanted to arrive in the village on time, hoping that we will be able to save as many villagers as possible from dying.

“Two days passed. We arrived safely in the village. The villagers welcomed us with great joy.

“There was no time to rest. We went straight to the health facility to give the medicines. Unfortunately, over 10 people had already died.

“I felt bad to hear the news, but also felt relieved knowing that we can save more lives with the medicines we brought. We also set up chlorination points to ensure that the village’s water is treated.

“A day after we arrived, we left the village knowing that people affected with Cholera will recover soon.

“It was a tough mission, but it was worth it,” 38-year-old Moise, an aid worker who works with  Medair,  an international humanitarian organisation that helps relieve human suffering in some of the world’s most remote and devastated places, including the Democratic Republic of Congo.


 

Medair reached over 8,000 people in 11 villages in Itebero Health Zone in Walikale, a territory in Nord Kivu Province,  through case management by installing a Cholera Treatment Unity and setting up chlorination points, community sensitization on cholera prevention measures and how to prepare chlorinated water.

The European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) fund the project.