VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
A new hospital "makes all the difference" in remote eastern Congo
October 12, 2012 by Sinziana Demian
|Joyeuse, 19, is the very first patient to be admitted to the brand new Mikenge Hospital, in an extremely remote area of eastern Congo. Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC|
It is a blazing hot afternoon in Mikenge, a village in the highlands of South Kivu province, when 19-year-old Joyeuse staggers through the gates of the brand new hospital. Just hours earlier, the state-of-the-art building was inaugurated in an official ceremony, making it possible for Joyeuse, suffering from a severe form of malaria, to transfer here from the old and inadequate health center a few hundred meters down the road.
In this remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where houses are scattered about the forests and steep hills, most health centers function in dark, derelict mud huts. The new hospital, built by the International Rescue Committee with funding from the government of the United Kingdom, took 16 months to construct and cost over US$400,000. The four wards—maternity, pediatrics, surgery and internal medicine—have been fully equipped.
The endeavor proved all the more remarkable considering the incredibly difficult access to this site, especially during the rainy season when the poor roads are completely washed away. Security is also precarious, with rebel and local resistance groups active in the area.
This is the fourth major hospital that the IRC has completed during the past two years. The projects are part of our health program that spans six provinces over an area the size of Western Europe. Another 140 health centers have been built or renovated, many in remote areas. The IRC covers the running costs of these facilities, supplies drugs and medical equipment, and gives bonuses to the doctors and nurses in order to supplement their irregularly paid state salaries.
|A doctor examines Joyeuse, who is suffering from a severe form of malaria—an all-too-common illness in this part of Congo.|
Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC
In order to boost the low number of people traditionally seeking medical care—the result of difficult physical access and high consultation fees—the IRC has introduced a policy of subsidized care. Pregnant women, children under five, indigents, elderly and survivors of sexual violence now receive health care for free. Fees for more complicated procedures fees have been drastically reduced. C-sections in health facilities without outside support cost up to US$60, for example – a prohibitive amount, considering that most families live on $1/day or less. The procedure at subsidized facilities is offered for as little as US$5.
The new hospital at Mikenge accommodates up to 60 people in spacious, airy quarters. During the inauguration, local villagers were taken on tours, the maternity ward eliciting the most excitement. Dozens of pregnant women and young mothers marveled at the bright, fully equipped delivery room. Twenty-four-year-old Francine, carrying her two month old on her back, could hardly contain her enthusiasm.
Back in internal medicine, Joyeuse, whose name in French means “joyful,” is making herself at home on a corner bed next to a big window. “I am now a patient, but some day I will work here,” she says, explaining that she is studying to become a nurse. “This hospital makes all the difference. It will be so amazing to care for the sick in such a place!”