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Thousands of refugees who fled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009 remain across the border in Congo-Brazzaville, afraid to return home.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is assisting with the provision of medical care in Bétou district, in the department of Likouala. An average of 400 people were admitted to the 89-bed Bétou hospital every month: around half of these were women requiring maternity care and one-third were children. Staff assisted more than 2,600 births.
MSF also worked with the staff of the Congolese HIV and tuberculosis (TB) programs. Since January 2010, MSF has treated 80 people for TB, and 60 people with HIV have started antiretroviral treatment. More than 2,600 outpatient consultations were held at the hospital per month, mostly with children, and mainly for respiratory infections and malaria.
In order to ensure access to healthcare for people living along the Ubangi River, MSF supported two health centers in Ipenkbele, to the north, and Boyele, to the south, and operated mobile clinics in more remote areas. Staff offered basic medical and antenatal care, and treated people for severe malnutrition, carrying out more than 8,900 consultations per month. People in need of urgent, more specialised medical attention were transferred by boat to Bétou.
Polio outbreak in Pointe-Noire
At the beginning of December 2010, polio broke out in southwest Congo, and the Ministry of Health asked MSF to assist in responding to the epidemic. A team started work in the intensive care unit in Adolphe Cissé hospital, in the city of Pointe-Noire.
Polio is an incurable viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Staff treated patients for symptoms and offered physiotherapy sessions, crucial to limiting long-term damage from the disease. More than 140 patients received care. In March, as the number of cases declined, MSF withdrew, handing physiotherapy services and mobility assistance over to Handicap International.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 280 staff in the Congo. MSF has been working in the country since 1997.