When the Espoir Congo orphan care project first started under an open-air shelter, the children were sickly and malnourished. Efforts were concentrated on providing the children with nutritious food, vitamin supplements, and medication as needed.
Seeing the desperate need for preventative as well as basic first aid care, in 2011, Espoir Congo built a dispensary/medical center and set it up with furniture, a consultation table, weight scale and microscope. This has served to drastically improve health conditions and reduce mortality rates for the entire village, considering that the only alternative for any sort of medical assistance is a medical outpost 5 km away, in a rural setting where no one owns any vehicles.
Initially, a registered nurse came 3 times a week to monitor the children’s health, and administer vitamins, nutritional supplements and first aid care. Thanks to donated medicines, sick children received treatment for malaria, typhoid fever, coughs, amoebas and skin infections.
Essential equipment for the dispensary, such as a weight scale, blood pressure apparatus, stethoscope, microscope, medicine, surgical gloves, and other basic needs were provided through benefactors. Other basics such as a medicine cabinet, consultation table and other furniture were custom-built by Espoir Congo, and the mini-clinic received official registration, along with a recommendation letter from the Health Department.
Two full-time nurses are now attending to patients’ needs, and a doctor from the nearest hospital is on call in case of a medical emergency. Rapid testing for malaria, typhoid and other tropical diseases is now provided, thanks to the donated microscope, which makes it possible for patients to receive immediate treatment for these life-threatening diseases. All medical treatment and lab tests are free for the orphans, and provided at minimal cost for the people of the village, who suffer from extreme poverty.
Basic hygiene and health habits are also taught to the children. Having the availability of water storage and a new sanitary block means the kids can brush their teeth and wash their hands with running water – the first taps in the village!
In response to the urgent local need, a makeshift tin-roofed maternity was set up by local Congolese partners to provide basic birthing care. In 2012, 32 babies were born in the makeshift maternity clinic.
Florence, the on-site RN and school caretaker, has been providing not only medical assistance to the local community, but also ante- and post-natal care to mommies and babies.
Espoir Congo is currently seeking funding to assist with building a proper polyclinic. Raising sufficient funds to build a clinic will take time and although each delivery so far has gone well, there is always a risk of life-threatening complications. In the meantime, a major need is to acquire a 4x4 vehicle to serve as an ambulance, which would enable any emergency cases to be brought to the closest hospital quickly and help save lives.