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Republic of Congo
MSF in Republic of Congo, 2006
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Renewed fighting between government forces and Ninja rebels in Congo's southern Pool region has caused increased hardship for civilians living in this war-torn country. The recent violence follows years of bloody conflict that destroyed the region's infrastructure including its healthcare system. The fighting also caused many healthcare workers to flee. As a result, most people living in the Pool region today cannot obtain basic medical care.
In Pool's Kindamba district, MSF performs more than 2400 consultations monthly, at regional referral hospitals and through mobile clinics. The team offers in and outpatient care, emergency surgery, and maternal and childcare, including immunisations. In Mindouli district, another 2400 patients are seen monthly at mobile clinics and in the district hospital. Mental health services are also offered through local counsellors and social workers, who help people overcome trauma related to the region's violent past.
MSF assists HIV-positive patients at a new program in Mindouli. Counselling services and a patient support group have started and the first patient with advanced AIDS began receiving antiretrovirals (ARVs) in February 2006. HIV-positive patients are often co-infected with tuberculosis (TB) and MSF provides integrated care for coinfected patients in Kindamba and Mindouli. MSF is urging the Ministry of Health (MOH) to integrate TB and HIV/AIDS care into its basic healthcare services.
Malaria accounts for a large proportion of illness and death in this country. Advocacy work by MSF and others has led to a change in the malaria protocol from chloroquine and fansidar to more effective artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Close to 1000 people were treated for malaria in the first two months of 2006 alone.
Sleeping sickness (Human African Trypanosomiasis), a parasitic disease spread through bites of the tsetse fly, is also endemic here. After 20 years of screening and treatment, MSF closed its last project because of sharply reduced rates of the illness, but has urged the MOH to integrate such activities into its healthcare services.
Handover of Kinkala project
In May 2006, after performing 90,000 consultations and rehabilitating health structures, MSF handed over a basic healthcare project in Kinkala, Pool's provincial capital, to the MOH. MSF had also begun providing HIV/AIDS treatment in Kinkala; these patients will continue to receive care through the program in Mindouli.
Prior to the project handover, MSF sent a surgeon and anaesthetist to Kinkala to perform vesico-vaginal fistula surgery on 20 women. Caused by prolonged labour and other obstetric complications, fistulas result in chronic incontinence, leading to social isolation. The surgery helps women to function normally and, it is hoped, will facilitate a return to their homes and families.
MSF has worked in the Republic of Congo since 1997.