The challenges and our response
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently experiencing the second-largest outbreak of Ebola ever, on the eastern edge of the country in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. On July 17, 2019, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which heightens international focus on stopping the spread of the deadly virus.
As part of our response efforts, we built, opened and operated an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Makeke (now transitioned to a hospital for the community) and are currently operating an ETC in Mangina—the initial epicentre of the outbreak—as well as an Ebola Transit Center in Beni. In addition to providing treatment, vaccination and contact tracing, we also have constructed nearly 50 screening-and-referral units throughout the region, facilitating more than 1 million screenings for the deadly virus.
The Ebola outbreak compounds an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country caused by decades of violence that, together with hunger and disease, have claimed more than 5 million lives and left more than 13 million in urgent need of assistance. Though a civil war officially ended years ago, the eastern areas of DRC remain one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis zones. International Medical Corps is addressing humanitarian needs in Tanganyika, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, with activities focused on primary healthcare, nutrition and polio surveillance.
According to the United Nations, 2 million children under 5 in the DRC are affected by severe acute malnutrition—a figure that represents 12 per cent of the world’s caseload for that age group.
Violence among armed groups, land disputes and rampant sexual violence against women and children continue, especially in several areas of North Kivu. International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999 and in the years since has assisted more than 2 million people. About 80 per cent of those we have supported were displaced by the war. Today, we work in some of the country’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organisations is extremely limited or non-existent.
International Medical Corps currently supports 64 clinics and hospitals in health zones of North Kivu, Tanganyika and South Kivu, providing essential drugs, medical supplies, training, and referral and transfer of patients who need specialized care. Our beneficiaries include internally displaced people, Congolese refugees returning home and vulnerable host populations. Given the considerable gaps in primary healthcare services in International Medical Corps’ area of intervention, we focus on providing a comprehensive and integrated primary care package, including immunisation campaigns, advancement of maternal and child health, and improved environmental sanitation and hygiene practices at targeted health facilities. More than 75% of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea cases in International Medical Corps-supported facilities are successfully treated; we continue to support capacity-building within these health centres to ensure that treatment quality remains high.
Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment
Since 2002, International Medical Corps has helped lead the battle against widespread gender-based violence (GBV) in war-ravaged eastern DRC. Our complementary USAID-funded Care, Access, Safety and Empowerment (CASE) and Behavior Change Communications (BCC) projects take a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of GBV survivors while preventing future cases by changing community attitudes around gender and violence. In three health zones in DRC, CASE has provided more than 37,000 people with increased access to quality medical, psychosocial, legal and livelihood services.
International Medical Corps currently is implementing a GBV project in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee funded by the World Bank through Fonds Social of the DRC. The project is being carried out in North and South Kivu, in five health zones: Minova, Shabunda, Lulingu, Kirotshe and Binza.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
Because many health facilities in DRC lack running water, latrines and other basic sanitation services, International Medical Corps works with health centres to construct and rehabilitate water sources and install rainwater catchment systems. To ensure the sustainability of these efforts, our teams establish local water and sanitation committees and educate villagers on the proper maintenance and storage of water as well as sanitation supplies and sources.