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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Executive Director joins NBA star to launch new health facilities in DR Congo

© UNICEF DR Congo/2009/Asselin
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman stands by a bed occupied by Gabriel Kelani, 7, who is recovering from malaria, in the paediatric ward of the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa, DR Congo.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a five-day visit to assess the situation of women and children amidst what is widely seen as Africa's worst humanitarian crisis. Here is one in a series of related reports.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 26 August 2009 – As this country tries to recover from years of civil war and unrest, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital (BMMH) offers hope in an impoverished Kinshasa neighbourhood.

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Mutombo Hospital, opened in 2007, aims to be a model for the rebuilding of a national medical system in DR Congo, where the collapse of the health care infrastructure has left millions vulnerable to a multitude of illnesses that are easily preventable in much of the developed world.

“We have suffered a lot,” says Dikembe Mutombo, the Congolese-American basketball legend whose foundation built the hospital named in memory of his mother. “The civil unrest in the country has destroyed the fabric of our society when it comes to the health care system,” he added.

Monitoring, treatment and prevention
Yesterday, at a ceremony attended by Mutombo and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, BMMH launched two ‘centres of excellence’ – the Immune System Monitoring Laboratory and the Occupational Safety Centre for Health Workers.

The new lab will improve monitoring and treatment of patients living with HIV/AIDS. The safety centre will train more than 300 clinicians on prevention of occupational disease contagion.

“People come to health centres to get rid of diseases,” said Dr. Mireille Kanda, Senior Advisor with the Mutombo Foundation, “and we don’t want anyone leaving here with something they didn’t arrive with.”

A US-based medical technology partner, Becton, Dickinson and Company, will provide a range of safety-engineered injection and blood collection devices, as well as laboratory and occupational safety training for at least 330 health care workers.

A model for health care
At the inauguration of the new centres, Veneman cited the hospital as an example of what a health care system could look like if it were properly implemented throughout the country.

© UNICEF DR Congo/2009/Asselin
Outside one of the new ‘centres of excellence’ at Mutombo Hospital, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (left) stands with NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo (back centre), DR Congo Minister of Public Health Mwami Mopipi Mukulumany (far right) and Becton, Dickinson Executive Vice-President Gary Cohen (third from right).

“The Democratic Republic of Congo remains one of the poorest countries in Africa, with poverty, conflict and disease contributing to a public health crisis,” she said. “Partnerships such as the one we recognize today are addressing this devastating situation and help provide an infrastructure for expanded care and services to those who otherwise would not have access to these life-saving resources.”

Since 1998, some 5 million people have died from war, hunger and disease in DR Congo. More than 500,000 children under the age of five die every year here, mostly from preventable causes such as cholera, diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition.




26 August 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the inauguration of the new ‘centres of excellence’ at Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa, DR Congo.
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