Programme seeks to address all aspects of HIV infection in eastern Congo

Making a Difference, 13 July 2010

© UNHCR/C. Schmitt
Dr. Mukuna Ghislain (far left) of Oxfam Quebec oversees the UNHCR funded HIV prevention project in Dungu in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He sits with nurses who have undergone training through the project.

DUNGU, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 13 (UNHCR) Josephine is just one of the more than 250,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes in this isolated and chaotic corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The reason for her flight and that of many others is one of the world's most ruthless armed militias, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) which is infamous for its attacks on civilians. Thirty-five year old Josephine arrived at the Li-nakofu site for internally displaced person (IDPs) following an LRA attack on her village. In April, the LRA attacked again, this time 500 metres from the settlement where people had sought sanctuary from the group's violence. During the assault, two of her daughters aged 9 and 11 were abducted as was a third girl aged 12. The girls have since then been released, but the LRA continue to hover near the site.

In this part of eastern Congo, not a day goes by without people being affected directly or hearing of militia attacks. But even after being forced from home, the displaced continue to suffer. The victims find themselves victimized yet again, targets of sexual violence, extortion and family dislocation. What little infrastructure is in place is often destroyed by the militias who regularly target health centres and schools. Less visible, but equally destructive, are the high levels of HIV infection.

Since 2009 UNHCR has been running an integrated HIV program aimed at addressing the needs of local populations and internally displaced people by improving the quality of the health care available.

The program works to prevent HIV infection by promoting condom use, safe blood transfusion techniques, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and the prevention of mother to child transmission. It also provides voluntary testing and counselling and post-exposure prophylaxis in case of sexual violence.

Dr. Mukuna Ghislain, HIV project coordinator for Oxfam Quebec, UNHCR's implementing partner, supports the program's integrated approach. "There is no point having a program that responds to HIV infection without offering a means of preventing it," he said. "To be successful one has to address a variety of issues."

There are more than 100,000 people living in the Dungu health zone, an area divided into 20 sections, three of which are inaccessible due to LRA activity. Dungu hospital is the only place where HIV testing can be done. Dr. Benjamin Manano, the hospital's director, says that 65 percent of those infected with HIV at the hospital are women.

Dr. Ghislain believes the program is already showing promising results. "Before this intervention," says Dr Ghislain, "there was limited care for persons with sexually transmitted infections. Now, not only does the health care exist, but technicians and health personal have been trained." He credits community participation and ownership of the program for its success. But the programme is not without its challenges.

Reaching beneficiaries, who are displaced and often hiding in very remote and insecure areas, is the greatest obstacle for UNHCR and its partners. The work is difficult and dangerous.

The price of a consultation is another issue. A visit to Dungu hospital costs one dollar, a consultation with a nurse is fifty cents. Even this tiny amount is beyond the means of many of the displaced.

There are currently more than 1.8 million internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNHCR continues to need funding for its programs to protect and assist some of the world's most vulnerable people.

By Celine Schmitt in Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

Donate to this crisis

HIV and AIDS

Read about UNHCR's provision of HIV and AIDS protection, prevention, treatment and more.

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.
Uganda: New Camp, New ArrivalsPlay video

Uganda: New Camp, New Arrivals

Recent fighting in eastern Congo has seen thousands of civilians flee to a new camp, Bubukwanga, in neighboring Uganda.
DR Congo: Tears of RapePlay video

DR Congo: Tears of Rape

Eastern DRC remains one of the most dangerous places in Africa, particularly for women.