Sergio blogs about an unusual project for MSF, in Boga, DRC...
In January 2017 when I arrived in Boga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the MSF team here was seeing a really high number of cases of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), malaria and diarrhoea in children under five. There were also survivors of sexual violence, both women and men.
The health needs were great and they still are. Our MSF team of almost 90 people do their best to make sure we provide efficient and effective healthcare.
Zunguluka village is one of the three areas in Boga health zone which MSF will support in 2017. Photo: Caroline Frechard / MSF
The people of Boga are fully involved with MSF to help ensure that healthcare is provided to the sick in the area, and to ease the suffering of local communities and families – and I wanted to help them.
Rehabilitating healthcare centres
Instead of the typical emergency situation MSF works in, Boga is quite stable. But the medical needs of the population remain huge, and some health centres need refurbishing. MSF first intervened in Boga in April 2015, and wants to help the communities answer these needs by building something long-term.
The health centre at Zunguluka. Photo: Caroline Frechard / MSF
We have been refurbishing six healthcare centres we support and we are planning on building a new hospital that would better serve people in the area. The main needs include cases of diarrhoea and malaria in children, cases of respiratory tract infections, and difficult pregnancies. In addition, survivors of sexual violence are starting to come to the current hospital to seek care and counsellors can see them in confidence and can give them the physical and psychological support they need.
The local staff are very motivated, skilled and they work proactively with MSF
The hospital we are planning to build will not be a typical MSF hospital built according to our internal guidelines but a hospital built according to Congolese Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines. We have more time than in a typical emergency situation to plan the construction of the hospital, as well as the renovation of the local health centres. So we discussed the plans a lot with the local health teams in order to best address the medical needs of the people living in Boga.
The decision to work in close collaboration comes as a result of mutual trust and hard work from the MoH and MSF.
The skills we found in DRC are incredibly precious and we should harness the potential of local staff for the benefit of the Congolese people.
Our approach includes reinforcing the knowledge and abilities of the MoH staff and teams through workshops and training sessions, and our strategy includes donations of equipment and medicines to the hospital.
The health impact on the local communities is significant. Victims of sexual violence now have a confidential place to go and get medical and mental health support. The support that MSF gives to the hospital’s operating theatre is decreasing the rates of maternal mortality as now women can get good and free obstetric treatment for complicated pregnancies.
This is a new approach for MSF – we are trying to build something long-lasting
Mugwanga Community Forum. Photo: Caroline Frechard / MSF
This new approach needs the right partnerships at local level. Thanks to our activities, MSF is very welcome in the region; our relationships with the local authorities are a result of hard work.
Thanks to this work, we were able to offer more than 150 trainings to local health workers in 2016, in how to respond to a malaria peak, how to provide confidential medical and psychological consultations to victims of sexual violence, and to manage the administration of a hospital.
The future looks bright in Boga. After supporting three health centres for a period of a year in 2016, we are now happy to see that they can function autonomously. As of April 2017, we will start supporting three new health centres with the same aim. The local communities support our work and everyone is motivated to improve the quality of care available.