For a sustainable health care system in North Kivu

Berlin / Goma, 24 October 2019

We have been supporting the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the health sector for over 20 years. With our health stations we provide medical care for tens of thousands of people. In addition, we educate them on how to protect themselves against diseases or pandemics like Ebola. For several years, a psychological team has also been helping women and girls who have been sexually abused. The photographer Lambert Coleman has visited the people on site and gives us insights into their lives.

Kamanzi Bihira, 64, supports Johanniter on a voluntary basis in raising awareness of the deadly Ebola virus

Kamanzi Bihira in the health center Mpanamo

"Most people are not yet convinced of the existence of Ebola because they have not yet seen a case. But they are able to change their habits," says Kamanzi Bihira. The 64-year-old farmer is a representative of his community and came to the Mpanamo health centre the day before because he was suffering from stomach ache. As a community health worker, he has helped us in the past to spread more knowledge about vaccination and malnutrition. He lived in the village of Mpanamo all his life. When the health centre opened there, he suggested that he could help as a volunteer. Since the Ebola outbreak, he has been educating the people in his village about the dangerous virus disease. He says that some people do not even know what a virus is. Kamanzi first heard about Ebola on the radio and has been trying to educate people about it ever since, as it can kill the whole family if you don't behave properly. "If a person is affected by Ebola, the family can abandon him and let him die," he explains dryly.

Theophiler Jamie Lukoo, training nurse at Kibabi Health Centre

Theophile Jamie Lukoo at Kibabi Health Center

"The volunteers are to raise public awareness of all health-related challenges. Since the outbreak, they have also been making the population aware of Ebola," says Theophiler Jamie Lukoo. He is 35 years old and works as a nurse with 68 health care workers who were previously selected by the population. According to Lukoo, candidates must have "good morale, be able to write and read and be in good physical condition." The volunteers are supposed to sensitise the population to all challenging topics such as vaccinations, malnutrition or risks of home births. Regarding Ebola, people learn that they have to wash their hands frequently. They should also avoid shaking hands and reduce physical contact. "Residents are beginning to understand that there is a way to prevent Ebola," says Lukoo.

Nchuti Mediatrice, 35, gave birth at Kilolirwe Health Centre

Nchuti Mediatrice with her newborn child at the Kilolirwe health center

The Kilolirwe Health Centre is open to the 8,828 people living in the area. Nchuti Mediatrice gave birth to her seventh child there. She is 35 years old. Her child does not yet have a name because the father has not arrived at the health centre. Nchuti Mediatrice is a farmer and lives in very basic conditions. She has to pay the equivalent of 5 US dollars as her own contribution for the birth in the ward, whereas in the past she only paid 60 cents. Despite the support provided by our projects, the centres are still in public hands. For this reason, we are working to introduce health insurance. This will help to make the health care system financially sustainable and ensure access for all people. As a result of the increased tariffs, the number of patients has fallen significantly in recent years, and many can no longer afford the contributions.

Sifa Furaha, 27 Jahre, was raped

Sifa Furah in her kitchen

Sifa Furaha lives from selling beans. She comes from the village of Bihambwe, is married and has six children. In 2017 she went to a field about five kilometres from her home to buy milk. There she was attacked and raped by two shepherds. She immediately went to the health centre after being counseled by some health workers. When she arrived, she felt like someone else, Sifa reports. Her husband still does not know what happened. She is ashamed to tell him. Sifa received medical and psychological help. She was then given seeds to start her own business and regain her self-confidence. Her money has also been stolen during the rape. The additional support now allows her to make a new economic start.

Thanks to her experience, she was already able to help three women from her community who had also been raped. "I told them not to worry because they are not going to die," says Sifa. Thousands of women, girls and boys become victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year. Rape is used as a weapon in armed conflict and there is widespread impunity, so perpetrators rarely face consequences.

International Assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nurse in health station in North Kivu touches a young child on her mother's back, smiling

International Assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we support rural health centers in the province of North Kivu to improve basic health care.

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