People First

Now health care is free in conflict-torn Hombo

Updated: 10 June 2015

The vast numbers of new refugees meant a real challenge for the small clinic in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of them were seriously ill, but had no money to pay to see a doctor or for medication and the clinic with its scarce resources could not provide care without compensation. However, patients can now get help with their illnesses due to the Swedish aid for free medicine.

"The clinic now has the opportunity to provide the refugees with free medicine,” says Kroli Kasindi who works as a nurse in Hombo."

Hombo is located on the border between the provinces of South Kivu and North Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The village with its more than 16,000 inhabitants suddenly grew when some 20,000 internally displaced persons from the surrounding communities arrived. The people there had been forced to flee when two armed rebel groups, Mayi-Mayi and Raia Mutomboki, attacked their home villages. In addition to losing their homes and their land and with that their livelihood, many suffered from poor health. Malaria was common, a large number of children were malnourished and need of medical care and medicines was immense.

Rebel groups fight in the area to gain control of the valuable raw materials in the soil, while villages in the great, vast areas are attacked to drive away the local population. Lawlessness and hostilities have hit the population hard and poverty is widespread.

Despite the fact that the majority in Hombo are already very poor, refugees have been given shelter with host families. Yet when the refugees sought care at the healthcare clinic for themselves and their children, they had no money to pay with. It seemed meaningless to visit the medical facilities without being able to pay for an examination, and besides there were no medicines anyway. There were very few patients in the waiting room on the veranda outside the clinic, often there was only around seven patients a day who came during opening hours.

“We could not give the patients the care they needed, and besides our medicine stocks were exhausted so many patients had to go home without having received help,” says Kroli Kasindi who works as a nurse at the clinic in Hombo. “The number of internally displaced persons who came was much higher than we had expected”.

He has worked at the healthcare clinic in Hombo ever since he took his degree in nursing, four years ago. Any other profession was unthinkable:

“Well, I felt that I really wanted to work in healthcare as good health is important for the community and the people here. The on-going conflict between the different armed groups makes the situation difficult for us,” he adds.

When details of the large increase of internally displaced persons reached UNICEF, the situation was assessed and it was established that the need for aid was extremely high for both those displaced and their host families.  In a major aid effort, the internally displaced population now receives free medical care and the shelves of medicines in the building next to the clinic, which previously were empty, have been replenished due to the Swedish aid.

“There is a big difference and it means so much to our community. It is like a dream,” says Kroli Kasindi.

Sitting on one of the wooden benches on the clinic’s veranda is Marina Kaengo with her malaria sick son in her arms.

“Without this possibility, we would have had to stay at home and my son would have died as I cannot pay for his care,” says Marina Kaengo.

The support has made a big difference in terms of healthcare in Hombo. The healthcare clinic now takes care of around 50 patients a day, and no one needs to go home without having received treatment for their illness. The help now reaches the people of Hombo.

“We are very pleased to have partners who support our work so we can finally treat the sick that need care,” says Kroli Kasindi.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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