The challenges and our response
The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have endured decades of civil war, during which 5.4 million Congolese died from violence, hunger and disease. While the war officially came to an end years ago, the eastern region of DRC remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis zones.
Violence among armed groups, intercommunity conflicts, land disputes and rampant sexual violence against women and children continue, especially in several zones in the North-Kivu. International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999 and has since served more than two million people in the country, 80 percent of whom were displaced by the war. Today, we provide primary health care and a range of health services in some of DRC’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organisations is extremely limited or non-existent. Despite continued support over the past six years to reinforce immediate and sustained access to essential and integrated primary health care for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and conflict-affected persons, the humanitarian situation is getting worse.
Health Care: International Medical Corps supports dozens of health centers, clinics and hospitals in North and South Kivu and Itebero, Kibua, Pinga and Bambo health zones by providing medical supplies, essential drugs and training for health workers. We conduct health interventions to prevent and treat the morbidity diseases of malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections.
To help prevent polio, our staff initiated an Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance program and improved reporting in health zones in DRC’s North Kivu. AFP is a condition of sudden weakness, paralysis and reduced muscle tone, which is a common sign of polio and is used during surveillance for polio outbreaks. The program led to higher rates of AFP case detection among children under the age of 15, and thus helped to ensure that no polio cases go undetected in targeted health facilities—supporting efforts to reach a polio-free future. In addition, our teams provide reproductive health services including clean delivery kits and access to skilled birth attendants and antenatal visits. In areas without clinics, we run mobile medical units to give vulnerable and displaced populations access to vital health care services.
Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment: International Medical Corps works to treat and prevent sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) by integrating services into our primary health care programs and training doctors and community health workers in GBV response. Our teams take a holistic approach to rape and sexual violence in DRC, building the capacity of the health sector so that survivors have better access to quality medical services, as well as psychosocial care, legal support and skills-building and educational opportunities. To prevent future cases, our teams are engaging communities in the fight against GBV by working to change public attitudes and opinions on gender and violence.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): As many health facilities in DRC lack running water, latrines and other basic sanitation services, International Medical Corps works with health centers to construct and rehabilitate water sources and install rain water catchment systems. To ensure the sustainability of these efforts, our staff establish local water and sanitation committees and educate villagers on the proper maintenance and storage of water and sanitation supplies and sources.