Overcoming fear to reach reproductive care in Kasai
Jacqueline Lusambo, 18 years old and pregnant, spent six months living on the run, hiding from the conflict that raged through Kasai Central, in DRC.
“When violence between Government forces and resistance groups broke out, many villages were burned to the ground and people were abducted or killed,” she recalls. Together with her family, Jaqueline fled her home. Soon after leaving her village, she lost her husband and was left alone to care for her one-year-old son while searching for safety.
Jacqueline is just one of an estimated 1.4 million people in Kasai who fled their homes in 2017 to escape conflict. She has not heard from her husband and is uncertain if he is one of the thousands killed as violence ravaged the countryside.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), together with Caritas Congo and Caritas Kananga, is helping women like Jaqueline by providing psychosocial and medical services, including mobile reproductive health clinics, and community prevention and awareness on gender-based violence (GBV). More than 800 GBV survivors and 2,484 vulnerable women and girls were among those receiving dignity kits and psychosocial care.
When she arrived at the mobile clinic in Kalomba, months after she fled her home, Jaqueline received her first antenatal check-up. On the same day, nearly 180 pregnant women along with Jacqueline received urgent care.
“Mobile clinics are the only way to reach these women and save their lives, as most of them are afraid to go venture out to health centres for antenatal care,” said Dr. Marguerite Kunduma of UNFPA. “The mobile clinics reach areas where health centres and hospitals have been destroyed, and also provide existing health facilities with basic and emergency reproductive health supplies and services.”
UNFPA supplied reproductive health kits to 25 facilities in eight areas heavily affected by conflict. These kits contain supplies needed to manage a range of reproductive health concerns, including emergency obstetric care and post-rape treatment.
“The kits contain enough supplies to last three months and meet the needs of an estimated 450,000 people, including 22,500 pregnant women,” said Dr. Polycarpe Takou, UNFPA’s HC in DRC.
This story features on CERF 2017 Annual Report