Democratic Republic of Congo

Doctors of the World has been active in the DRC since 1994, when we first began emergency interventions in the provinces of Kasai and North and South Kivu in response to widespread conflict and displacement.

Today our focus is on providing access to sexual and reproductive care to young people in Kinshasa

The Democratic Republic of Congo is 4 times the size of France, has a population of over 77 million people, and 61% of the population is under 20 years old. The DRC’s vastness and complexity presents huge challenges in the universal provision of medical care. Our teams currently work to improve the access to and quality of sexual and reproductive health services for young people in the city of Kinshasa.

The large majority of the DRC’s population cannot afford healthcare or live in areas where health infrastructure is extremely weak. In addition, procedures such as abortions are illegal in all but a few cases and often severely frowned upon. This leads many young women who experience unwanted pregnancies to seek out unsafe abortions that can leave them in hospital and in some cases kill them. 

 

“If you dare abort, you’ll die!” A nurse told Merlyne when she became pregnant in her teens 

LUC3286

As a result, Merlyne (pictured left) went on to have a baby for whom neither she nor her partner were ready. Merlyne often worries that she and her baby are now an extra financial burden on her parents. Our teams work in Kinshasa to support adolescent girls like Merlyne and to provide them with information about their sexual and reproductive health.

We aim to remove the barriers that young people often face when trying to access care, to reinforce the capacity of the local health services and to reduce the stigma associated with sexual education for young people. We operate in 14 different primary health centers and 5 hospitals in 5 health zones within Kinshasa. 

By working with local communities, we aim to reduce the stigma around sexual and reproductive healthcare for young people

NA20720

In Kinshasa, nearly 50% of pregnancies are unwanted and 25% of young girls become pregnant before the age of 19. It is illegal for minors to purchase contraception without the consent of a guardian, which means that many young people engage in unprotected sex. This leaves them at the risk of having unplanned pregnancies or even contracting diseases such as HIV.

Sex outside of marriage is frowned upon by Congolese society, and girls with unplanned pregnancies often become marginalized. By working with local communities, we aim to reduce the stigma around sexual and reproductive healthcare for young people. We want to ensure that they can receive information on contraceptives, safe sex and family planning to help them make informed decisions on their reproductive health. 

In addition to our work in Kinshasa, since 2015 Doctors of the World has partnered with Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu. 

MDM_Congo_Panzi_01_743A6356_KristofVadino

Panzi Hospital was established in 1999 and runs a successful program for survivors of sexual violence, which is common and often goes unpunished across the DRC. The program provides patients with physical care, psychological support and assistance with reintegrating into society. Doctors of the World Belgium works to strengthen and increase the capacity of the program, especially its psychological support component.

Most of the patients we see are women, but children and men are also admitted into the program. Panzi Hospital’s manager, Dr. Denis Mukwege, has been bestowed numerous awards for his work to treat and prevent sexual violence in the DRC. To date, the hospital has treated and changed the lives of over 50,000 people.

Support Our Work

You can provide lifesaving sexual and reproductive healthcare to young people in Kinshasa.