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Republic of Congo
MSF in Republic of Congo, 2005
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Having lived through several episodes of war, civilians in the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo Brazzaville, have yet to recover from the devastating effects of the fighting. Despite a ceasefire announced in 2003, there has been little improvement in terms of security, health care or the economy. MSF provides care for many of those displaced by the conflict or suffering from diseases such as sleeping sickness or tuberculosis (TB).
Fighting in the southeastern Pool region has destroyed health structures and forced many health workers and other civilians to flee. MSF helps people living with HIV/ AIDS, TB, malaria, war trauma or sexually transmitted infections at hospitals in Kinkala and Kindama. In the Mindouli district, MSF staff give basic health care in the local hospital as well as in five area health centers.
These facilities also offer emergency surgery, maternity care and help for those who have experienced sexual violence. In addition, the teams run mobile clinics. In the first half of 2005, MSF staff conducted a total of 11,000 outpatient medical consultations per month in Kinkala, Kindama and Mindouli.
The health center for the northeastern town of Bétou, in Likouala department, has undergone significant changes since MSF arrived four years ago and expanded the center into a hospital two years later. Originally designed to care for thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), it now has 40 beds, two operating theatres, and a TB treatment center. More than 2,500 consultations and 280 hospitalizations (including 80 surgical interventions) were conducted during each month of 2004 by MSF staff. A vaccination campaign was also conducted to protect the most vulnerable civilians against polio, measles, yellow fever and other endemic diseases.
Because many of the area's refugees are now returning home, MSF is urging the country's ministry of health to reintegrate the structure into the national health care system. MSF withdrew from the hospital in April 2005 when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees started repatriating refugees back to the DRC.
In the capital, Brazzaville, MSF provided medical and psychosocial care for an estimated 30 survivors of sexual violence each month at Talangaï and Makélékélé Hospitals. MSF gave medical treatment to prevent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The team also offered other medical assistance and psychological counseling and follow up. MSF handed over this work to local groups in June 2005.
Success against sleeping sickness
During 2005, MSF continued projects aimed at helping those infected with sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis). Caused by a parasite spread by the tsetse fly, the illness is fatal without treatment. Teams run an extensive sleeping sickness program in the areas of Mossaka, in the Cuvette region (on the Congo River) and in Nkayi, in the Bouenza region, in the south of the country. In 2004, MSF mobile teams (including some that traveled by boat) screened 166,941 people for the illness and treated 739 people. MSF ended its sleeping sickness work in these areas at the end of April 2005 because extensive screening and treatment had significantly reduced the disease's prevalence. A mobile MSF team will continue to screen and treat people for the disease in remote or insecure areas until the end of 2005.
MSF has developed a new protocol to treat patients with sleeping sickness and is encouraging the country's health authorities to adopt it. In April 2005, MSF conducted an evaluation of its successful project to compile the lessons learned and make recommendations for a national program.
MSF has worked in The Republic of Congo since 1997.