Since April 1, 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working in the isolated region of Boga, in the Ituri District of Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Orientale Province. MSF aims to improve the quality of care offered to both the local population and displaced people in the region. To this end, the project focuses on reproductive health and the medical and psychological treatment of victims of violence.
A Weakened Health System
The isolated Boga region in the south of Irumu Territory is beset by both marauding armed groups and inter-ethnic tensions. Health facilities are scarce here, and the few that do exist are dilapidated and staffed by under-trained personnel. Moreover, the cost of care is often too high for the local population. “There is widespread use of traditional medicine, while some people go to neighboring Uganda for treatment, which unfortunately leads to medical complications because of the lack of follow-up,” explains MSF Head of Mission Kevin Coppock.
In response to this situation, MSF, which has been working in Orientale Province since 2003, launched a new project with local partners to improve the quality of care in a region where very few humanitarian organizations are present. MSF is currently working to support Boga General Referral Hospital (GRH) and Rubingo health care center.
Caring for Victims of Violence
In early April, MSF set up an emergency ward and a ten-bed intensive care unit at Boga GRH, and is working to improve the laboratory and sterilization unit. The team also started rehabilitating the facility, and the operating theater and maternity ward will be upgraded. During the first month of activities, more than 160 patients were seen in the emergency ward.
MSF is focusing its efforts on reproductive health and the medical and psychological treatment of victims of violence. “The health care centers in the region have limited capacity to treat the most vulnerable people, such as victims of sexual, domestic, or armed violence,” says Coppock. “The consultations we offer are available not only for women, but also for men, who are sometimes forgotten victims of rape and violence.” This work is backed up by awareness-raising activities in local communities. In April 2015, 2,750 people received relevant health information at 37 locations within the health care area.
Treating Mothers and Babies
In the mother-child unit at Rubingo health care center, MSF teams had to increase the frequency of antenatal consultations from one to two days a week to provide care to all pregnant women coming to the facility. In April 2015, around 200 consultations were conducted there. In the coming months, MSF will carry out the same activities at Burasi health care center.
MSF has been considering its eventual withdrawal since the start of this project. “We are working closely with local actors such as the Bureau Central de Zone, the management committees, and civil society to promote a cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable health care system, says Coppock. “By maintaining medical care at an affordable cost, we ensure that the health facilities will be able to self-finance after our departure. We must also make sure that the necessary skills are transferred to local health care personnel.”