The years of civil war (1994 to 2002) ravaged the infrastructure and economy of South Kivu Province which is in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The security situation remains extremely delicate and the population still lives in precarious conditions. Sanitation conditions are difficult; the infrastructure of South Kivu is in great need of equipment and rehabilitation.
Switzerland, which is committed to working for peace in the Great Lakes region, has, since 2009, supported a programme for the rehabilitation and development of the public health system in South Kivu Province. This programme targets in particular the most vulnerable groups of the population such as women (pregnant women, female victims of acts of sexual aggression), children and the young. The project initially concentrated on the two zones of Uvira and Ruzizi before extending to the Province’s other regions.
New Paediatrics Units
Three health centres have already been rehabilitated and equipped in South Kivu. The two referral hospitals of Uvira and Sangé have each been fitted out with a new paediatrics unit. Thanks to these new infrastructures and the renovation of operating theatres and delivery rooms, their patient capacities have increased. Compared to 2010 the number of births assisted by medical staff has increased considerably, reaching over 90% at Uvira Hospital. The purchase of a generator and an ambulance also assures better patient admissions and access to care. Over 50% of the population is now less than 30 minutes away from a health service facility.
The population does not have easy access to medicines. The programme has put in place a distribution network to supply medicines. Today this new system distributes medicines to the two hospitals of Uvira and Sangé and the 37 health centres across the two intervention zones.
Promotion of Health for the Young
The population, including the young, has been weakened by the conflicts. The programme supports the creation of ‘health zones’ specifically designed for young people. These are places where adolescents and young adults of both sexes can meet for information awareness activities and where they have easier access to information. The facilitators work with the young people to encourage and help them to adopt healthier habits (personal hygiene practices, etc.). They broach subjects such as sexual and reproductive health. These zones give young people a place to talk; other associations are welcomed e.g. women’s groups, to discuss topics associated with equality between women and men, citizenship, etc. The zones are well frequented; the Uvira centre welcomes on average 60 young girls and boys every day. The facilitators also attend external activities organised in the various districts.
Complementary Partners of Quality
This region still faces major challenges. Since 2012 the SDC programme has been extended to cover a larger geographic area (8 intervention zones) and now benefits a population of about 2 million. The SDC’s primary partner in this programme, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) has been joined by NGO Malteser International (MI). These two extremely experienced institutions, contribute invaluable complementary expertise. On an institutional level, the SDC works closely with the local, provincial sanitation authorities.
The SDC supports two other health programmes in the Great Lakes region, in Rwanda and Burundi. It aims to encourage synergies and exchanges between the partners in these various programmes through sharing their experiences.