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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

UNICEF partner ‘Heal Africa’ treats survivors of sexual violence in eastern DR Congo

© Heal Africa/2010/Kelly
Women wait for treatment outside a UNICEF-supported Heal Africa medical facility in eastern DR Congo.

NEW YORK, USA, 23 March 2009 – In the war-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF is working with Heal Africa, a local non-governmental organization, to provide free health and psycho-social services to survivors of rape and gender-based violence.

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Heal Africa has trained more than 300 counsellors to identify incidents of sexual violence, provide confidential support to survivors and conduct appropriate referrals – so that survivors have access to all available services during recovery. Counsellors also work with community leaders to raise awareness about gender-based violence.

Since 2003, Heal Africa has provided care for more than 29,000 survivors of sexual violence in DR Congo’s North Kivu province.

Emergency response teams

Heal Africa emergency teams respond as quickly as possible to crises reported by local humanitarian groups. Each team includes a physician, nurse, psycho-social counsellor and driver. The most complex cases are transferred to the Heal Africa hospital in the province for specialized care.

© Heal Africa/2010/Kelly
In Goma, eastern DR Congo, Heal Africa Public Relations Director Virginie Mumbere (left) visits a mill where women generate income by grinding grain, making chicken feed and selling eggs.

In addition, Heal Africa addresses many health problems beyond those suffered by survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. For example, the medical staff: 

  • Provides services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  • Teaches nurses and traditional midwives new skills to improve the odds of a safe delivery
  • Helps local committees identify children in need of medical care, and refers them for treatment

The organization also works to improve the overall quality of care in Goma, the provincial capital, and surrounding areas that have been isolated by war. Besides treating patients, its mobile clinics train and equip local medical personnel and health centres.

Reaching isolated communities

“Heal Africa has mobile clinics that go out and do surgeries that would not otherwise be accessible to the population in outlying areas,” said Ms. Anderson. “We’re providing training to nurses, training to midwives, helping village leaders organize, and then we can provide them links to other resources.”

© Heal Africa/2010
A nurse bandages a patient at the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, DR Congo.

Mobile teams communicate with village doctors and nurses in their local languages, educating them on new medical practices as well as helping them perform operations.

Heal Africa attempts to help survivors of sexual and gender-based with long-term recovery, as well. Survivors receive clothing and basic household items, and get assistance with socio-economic reintegration – including training to help them regain independence and self-confidence.

UNICEF’s support for these services is part of its overall programme in DR Congo, where it has provided medical care and counselling to more than 15,000 survivors of sexual violence.




Heal Africa Executive Director Judy Anderson talks about efforts to improve health care in eastern DR Congo.
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