Right now, there is a serious medical crisis happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the worst maternal mortality rates in Africa, 1,100 out of 100,000 mothers will die due to pregnancy related causes.[i] Compare this figure with the United States, where 11 mothers will die for the same number of pregnancies.
In DRC, International Medical Corps’ goal is to provide comprehensive health care to mothers and their children that would otherwise be completely unavailable. This includes making sure that mothers can see a doctor or skilled health professional during and after their pregnancy. Since January, our staff in DRC arranged 2,270 checkups with expectant mothers, with an additional 920 visits post-pregnancy.
In North and South Kivu, we also continue to support 62 health centers and 6 hospitals, providing medical supplies, personnel training, and referral and transfer of patients in need of special care.
One of the most horrific and widely reported aspects of the civil war in DRC is the use of Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a weapon of war. In addition to caring for survivors, International Medical Corps believes a holistic approach, one which engages the entire community, is the best way to prevent this type of violence. That’s why we prioritize education, training, and advocacy in the fight to end GBV.
This December, International Medical Corps recognized 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence with activities to raise awareness in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to walking in a march organized by La Commission Territoriale de Lutte Contre les Violences Sexuelles in Uvira, our staff conducted trainings and education sessions on GBV awareness and prevention.
Our staff trained 79 members of eight community-based organizations in Baraka, Nundu, and Ruzizi on supporting survivors of GBV. Topics ranged from processing referrals to providing emotional support for survivors. In Chambucha, we organized activities that encouraged girls and boys to work together equally, such as mobile cinema in schools and a football tournament.
“Positive engagement of youth is an important strategy for GBV prevention and response,” says Micah Williams, Gender-Based Violence Specialist for International Medical Corps. “Many young people have been affected, both directly and indirectly, by violence in DRC, and special efforts must be taken to provide appropriate support for affected children and youth. Young people are also still developing ideas of gender and patterns of behavior that are more engrained in adults. Early exposure to concepts of gender equality, human rights, and nonviolence will allow youth to form positive ideas and behaviors that will shape the future of DRC.”
Our work in DRC is possible because of your generosity. Thank you so much for supporting International Medical Corps!
[i] WHO 2010 Country Statistic
With your help in 2010, we were able to reach even more mothers and children with lifesaving medical care. Please take a momement to watch what we've accomplished together over the past year.Thank you!
In October our staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo marched with 250 International Trade Union Confederation members from more than 160 countries as well as female members of Congolese unions, and civil society groups. The mass rally aimed to denounce sexual and gender-based violence, and demand social justice for women in the DRC, where sexual violence has been employed as a weapon of war spreading fear, exacerbating ethnic tensions, and destabilizing communities. The rally in Bukavu was a sea of color, with women from all over DRC and the world joining in the march. Dressed in bright clothes made especially for the occasion out of fabric covered in slogans, the participants demanded an end to SGBV. Young and old marched together as hundreds of women filled the streets to make their voices heard. Since 1999, International Medical Corps has worked tirelessly to care for the countless women affected by the ongoing violence and unrest in the DRC. In many remote areas of North and South Kivu Provinces, International Medical Corps is the only international NGO that has maintained a permanent presence. Today, International Medical Corps supports 85 health facilities in the DRC, including 41 in North Kivu, 42 in South Kivu, and two in Maniema. Our work providing care for women in DRC is possible because of our wonderful supporters – your generosity means the world to us.
As you know, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very serious: since fighting began more than 20 years ago, more than 5 million people have died, millions more have been forced to flee their homes, and sexual violence is being used as a weapon to terrorize communities. This ongoing reality struck close to home when we recently responded and provided medical and psychosocial care to the survivors of the tragic August mass rape attacks in remote eastern Congo.
However, we are making progress in restoring health and hope to these communities. Since International Medical Corps opened, the Kalonge medical center last year, the medical staff has provided fistula repair to hundreds of women. Fistulas are a painful condition that results from complications during childbirth, and in rare instances, sexual violence. What’s more, in the past seven months alone, we provided more than 23,000 pre- and post-natal consultations to women and their babies. In addition, we provided care to more than 600 survivors of sexual violence.
Thank you so much for your past generosity. Thanks to supporters like you, we have been able to provide comprehensive medical care to thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We look forward to your continued support in the future.
Over the past few months, International Medical Corps has made impressive strides towards improving maternal health care in Congo. Between September 2009 and February 2010, our skilled health workers conducted nearly 16,000 pre-natal consultations and more than 4,000 post-natal consultations in International Medical Corps -supported clinics in eastern DRC.
We’ve also recently opened a reproductive health clinic 25 miles north of Bukavu that will provide reproductive and maternal health care for more than 20,000 women in the region. This is the only rural facility in the region to provide fistula repair (fistula is a debilitating and painful condition, often caused by obstetric emergencies, as well as sexual violence, that leaves a woman incontinent and causes severe reproductive damage). Previously, women seeking medical care for fistula had to make an arduous trip, mostly on foot and through rebel-held territory, to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.
International Medical Corps believes that providing quality medical services for women around the world not only saves lives but leads to healthier, more self-reliant communities. We are proud to consider you a partner in the fight to improve women’s health care.
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Resource Development Officer