DRC: “At Night, the Stories … Come Back to Haunt Me”
Baraka, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—“I [MSF nurse Alice Echumbe] am the supervisor of the Jamaa Letu center, which in Swahili means “Our family.” MSF opened this center in May 2011 to offer additional community services, especially to pregnant women who need to be close to the hospital just before birth to avoid a long travel from their villages.
The center also welcomes patients who want a more private and confidential setting for their consultations in family planning, voluntary HIV/AIDS testing (especially for pregnant women), treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and treatment for survivors of sexual violence. These survivors are not only women but [also] men and even children, some of them less than five years old.
I am a nurse by training and have worked for MSF since 2009, previously at MSF’s Baraka Hospital. I have done outreach work with mobile health teams, traveling to remote villages to raise awareness about health issues such as cholera, malnutrition, and TB.
What our teams notice in the villages is that people often go to traditional healers when they are sick—for example if a child has malaria, one of the most common illnesses. But traditional medicine can sometimes lead to serious complications and can put patients at risk of dying, especially if they cannot get to a hospital in time. So we explain to the community and to traditional healers to recognize when it is necessary to seek help and send their patients to a health center.
We also try to convince pregnant women to go to the rural health center or a hospital to give birth because those places have a skilled birth attendant, equipment, and drugs.
Photo: DRC 2011 © Claudia Blume/MSF