25 Apr 18 25 Apr 18

Malaria: MSF delivers critical treatment to remote areas of Democratic Republic of Congo

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), malaria is still the deadliest disease, with almost 15 million cases and around 27,500 deaths in 2017. During the same year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provided community-based, free healthcare to 819,000 malaria patients from 61 health facilities all over the country.

After Nigeria, the DRC sees the second highest number of malaria cases in Africa. Access to health care, especially in rural contexts, remains a huge challenge in the DRC for many reasons, including scant health infrastructure, not enough qualified medical professionals and supply difficulties. Poverty and displacement due to local conflicts and violence have also had taken a heavy toll on quality of care, which is usually not available for free.

To fight against malaria in rural environments, MSF carries out a range of activities to reach the most vulnerable populations in remote areas of the DRC. Since 2014, several MSF projects have adopted a community-based response to combat malaria and other frequent diseases (such as diarrhea and respiratory infections). These activities are being carried out in places like Bili, in North-Ubuangui, Baraka, Kimbi-Lulenge, Lulingu, Bunyakiry and Mulungu in South Kivu, and finally Mweso and Walikale in North Kivu.

'Before, we did it by foot'

MSF has been present in Bili, North–Ubuangui, since 2015, but last July refocused its activities to provide free treatment to malaria by supporting 17 health centres, 15 health sites and 3 community-based sites, where some 51,689 patients have been treated. “Distance and price are the biggest hurdles for those in need of care, especially in rural areas,” says Jean-Bernard, the local MSF community focal point in one of the MSF-supported health sites. “MSF provided several remote villages with bikes, to enable community focal points to reach them, and to refer cases to the local health care site or to the nearest health center. Before, we did it by foot: now the average journey has shifted from three hours to one hour. This has helped to save a lot of lives.”  

An MSF team also supports the pediatric department of Bili General Hospital, where 1,608 children under the age of 15 years have been hospitalized since July 2017.

In South-Kivu, in Baraka, malaria remains the most commonly treated disease by MSF staff, who took care of 113,197 people over the past three years. The support provided to 15 community health sites allows for the timely diagnosis and treatment of patients in their own villages, especially for remote populations living far from health centers. “The community-based approach is a rapid response to simple cases of malaria, preventing possible complications. Free care, that is close to the patient is key to reduce the huge impact of this morbidity in DRC,” explains Maaike Hersevoort, project coordinator for MSF in Baraka.  

MSF has worked in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1981, and today works in 20 of the country’s 26 provinces, offering medical care to the victims of conflict and violence, to displaced people and to those suffering in epidemics or pandemics like cholera, measles and HIV/AIDS. Emergency response teams are ready to react across the whole country in case of an epidemic, a natural disaster or a conflict.

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