© UNHCR/Claris Achu
Location icon Democratic Republic of the Congo

Maternal health project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Teachers Health has helped to improve maternal and neonatal care for Central African refugees and their hosts in DRC.

Over the past three years, Australia for UNHCR’s partnership with Australian not-for-profit health fund, Teachers Health, has helped provide life-saving support for refugee women and babies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

DRC is one of the most complex and challenging humanitarian situations in the world, with multiple brutal conflicts affecting several parts of its vast territory. Nearly 5.2 million Congolese have been forced from their homes elsewhere in the country but DRC is also home to 536,419 refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled violence in neighbouring countries, and new refugees are still fleeing across the borders from the Central African Republic (CAR), Burundi and South Sudan.

Since the beginning of year, ongoing violence and insecurity forced over 70,000 CAR refugees to cross the border into DRC, most of them are women and children under five. Humanitarian needs are vast, and pregnant women and infants are amongst the most vulnerable.

For refugee women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), pregnancy can be a dangerous and daunting experience.

As a result of the partnership with Teachers Health, UNHCR and its partner AIDES, were able to reach the most vulnerable CAR refugee and host community families, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under the age of five. The project has contributed to the improvement of access to health care for pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children under five by lifting the financial barrier to free care for those living outside the camps.

Support from Teachers Health has helped to fund more than 100,000 consultations for mothers and babies, helped to build a new maternity ward, provided salaries for nurses, equipped several health centres and provided medical equipment such as neonatal ICU equipment.

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Marie Dako, gave birth to two of her children at Lembo outpost thanks to the support of Teachers Health. © UNHCR/Claris Achu
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Dieudonne Kpegbia, a Congolese senior nurse is the head of the Lembo outpost. He ensures that CAR refugees get free neonatal services, with support from UNHCR’s partner AIDES. © UNHCR/Claris Achu

How Teacher’s Health has helped women and babies in camps in DRC:

  • Supported over 3,500 safe and clean deliveries in health facilities provided by skilled birth attendants
  • 5,758 children under one received a measles vaccine which is a priority health intervention
  • 102,503 refugee and local children under five benefitted from Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI).

Outside of camps:

  • 76,644 essential medicines, basic equipment and staff salaries for eight health centres in the region in zones targeting 63,933 children and 12,711 pregnant and lactating women
  • 1,824 safe and healthy deliveries provided by skilled birth attendants.

Marie Dako, a Congolese mother of three living at Lembo, North Ubangi province, regularly seeks the services of the Lembo health post built and equipped with funding from Teachers Health.

“I had my first child years ago at the Inke camp health centre. There were no good facilities here in Lembo, so I had to take a bike all the way to the Inke refugee camp, especially as my pregnancy was risky,” she said.

“But with the construction of the Lembo outpost by UNHCR, I no longer have to travel all the way to Inke. I have had two other children here in Lembo. There were not problems at all." 

“Before, this outpost was at a makeshift hut in the village. But UNHCR helped us to build it here. They gave us four beds and a delivery bed which we didn’t have before."

Dieudonne, a Congolese senior nurse is the head of the Lembo outpost and ensures that CAR refugees get free neonatal services, with support from UNHCR’s partner AIDES.

He says since the new influx, the number of consultations has doubled from a daily average of 12-20 persons to 20-25 persons, including women and children.

“Before, this outpost was at a makeshift hut in the village. But UNHCR helped us to build it here. They gave us four beds and a delivery bed which we didn’t have before. We also received medical equipment and drugs which have been very useful in providing lifesaving services to both pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children in Lembo,” he says.

“Sometimes, women come without any kits for their babies or hygiene kits for themselves. Sometimes, they are unable to feed the children properly, so we are experiencing an increase in the number of children with malnutrition since the new influx in January 2021. Our community leaders are raising awareness on good feeding practices, but this is not enough because the refugees especially do not have sufficient means to feed themselves. So, we need nutrition supplements to save lives.”

Chantal, a Central African refugee had her fifth child at the Lembo health outpost. Chantal escaped armed violence in her community, Gborongo, some four years ago.

“There were a lot of gunshots one day. I fled instinctively and found myself on the other side of the river. I had left behind two of my children and my husband. I didn’t know where they were. But fortunately, other villagers had taken my children along. I found them in Lembo two days after. My husband joined us later.”

“When I was pregnant with my fifth baby, I started my antenatal sessions at the Lembo health post. I had to take a bicycle there regularly. They have really been kind to us. They gave me advice, treatment for malaria, a mosquito net and assisted me to have my baby free of charge. If I had to pay for this, I don’t know what would have happened because we do not have much to live on here.”

UNHCR DRC Field Officer Fabien Faivre talks about some of the impact of the funding in this video.

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Chantal, a CAR refugee, holds her nine-day old baby at the Lembo health post. She travelled on a bike to ensure that midwives could assist her to have a safe delivery. © UNHCR/Claris Achu

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© UNHCR/Claris Achu
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Maternal health project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Teachers Health has helped to improve maternal and neonatal care for Central African refugees and their hosts in DRC.

Refugee men from South Sudan
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Teachers Health partnership to provide vital healthcare

Saving the lives of mothers and newborns in the DRC

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