Denise Mondji walks through the Dingele clinic garden, a project to improve nutrition and increase food security in this remote area of the DRC, Central Congo Conference. PHOTO: CENTRAL CONGO HEALTH BOARD
By Christie R. House*
Traveling to any of the three United Methodist clinics in the northern Kasai region of the Central Congo Episcopal Area that are part of the Abundant Health Initiative can be challenging. The lack of main roads into the area means international Methodist visitors fly into Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A regional flight can get them as far as Kananga. Then, they rely on the Central Congo missionary pilot, Jacques Umembudi, to take them farther. Diengenga, the largest of the clinics, is not on a Google map, but Captain Umembudi knows the way.
On the ground, Denise Mondji rides on the back of a motorbike, shuttling between the clinics as she oversees the progress of the Central Congo’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) program. These days, she focuses on the very young, whose lives may end prematurely from severe malnutrition before they’ve even had a chance at life.
The population served by these three clinics – Diengenga, Dingele and Ongodu – is experiencing severe stress. Hunger in the DRC is increasing at an alarming rate. The World Food Programme reports that severe food insecurity afflicts 7.7 million in the DRC, which is an increase of 30 percent in the past year. Almost half of the severely food insecure people (3.2 million) live in the Kasai region. Humanitarian needs in the DRC doubled from 2017 to 2018….
The DRC has suffered through long-running civil conflicts. In the Kasai region, 1.7 million people fled their homes last year as fighting spilled over from conflicts in the eastern provinces, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in the country to 4.5 million. Today, the DRC hosts more displaced people than any other African country. Displaced families have scarce resources to grow food, while their home fields remain uncultivated.
The Central Congo Health Board, which oversees 39 health facilities in the episcopal area, has partnered with Global Health to address challenges in each of the three clinics in the Diengenga area. Kathy Griffith, Global Health’s MNCH program manager, visited the area a few years ago. The roof had blown off the facility at Diengenga, water had to be transported in, electricity was unreliable, and the latrines were in an unhealthy state, shared by men and women. In Phase 1 of this multiyear grant, Diengenga received a new MNCH building, separated from the primary care facility. “When mothers and newborns are with general patients needing primary health care, their exposure is increased, and their privacy is reduced,” Griffith said.
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