Improving access to care for refugee populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Many regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are plagued by unrest and violence fueled by ethnic and territorial conflicts. According to the United Nations, the country now has 3.9 million internal displaced persons and 530,000 refugees fleeing violence in neighboring countries.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 64% of the refugees are children, who are particularly vulnerable to diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, cholera, measles, yellow fever and other epidemic-prone conditions. The vast majority of refugees live in rural areas where the infrastructure is very limited and refugee camps are sometimes inaccessible. The healthcare system in DRC is extremely fragile and is incapable of meeting the needs of either the Congolese or the refugees.

On the basis of its mission of responding to humanitarian emergencies in conflict zones, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation has decided to support three actions that target complementary geographic situations and populations:

  • A project by the Women And Health Alliance International (WAHA) association
  • A project supported by the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) Agency
  • A project led by the Panzi Foundation.

The WAHA’s main activities

Centre de santé Demba

The WAHA’s activities are designed to improve access to healthcare for mothers and newborns in the Demba area, covering:

  • Specialized training of midwives, nurses and obstetricians/gynecologists,
  • Training community volunteers to help direct women requiring support to the two health centers in the area,
  • Creating and implementing an awareness campaign on maternal health.

The United Nations High Commissioner’s activities

Centre de santé Demba

The UNHCR ensures that refugees and host communities have access to the healthcare they need. The UNHCR project carried out with the support of the Foundation involves the following:

  • Referencing refugees requiring major medical care,
  • Integrating children aged under five into the program handling community care for acute malnutrition,
  • Improving access to the primary healthcare services that are provided and upgraded by rehabilitating and equipping two health facilities.

The Sanofi Espoir Foundation’s help will support access to care for about 1,000 recipients.

The activities of the Panzi Foundation

Centre de santé Demba

The Panzi Foundation operates mainly through the Panzi hospital built in 1999 in the town of Bukavu in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The hospital is widely recognized for its expertise in the treatment of gynecological conditions, especially reproductive disorders and injuries due to sexual violence, and in the holistic treatment of survivors (134 of its 450 beds are dedicated to this aspect of its programs).

However, the hospital’s main longer-term objective is to become a training center and a center of excellence to promote health for everyone. To achieve this, the hospital provides improved health services, community outreach activities, and advocacy.


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