R. Dem. Congo has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth and a lack of adequate and timely care. Infant mortality, in some areas, is as high as 40% in a country that is still among the 15 poorest in the world. For several years now, Harambee has been promoting the Forfait Mama project to guarantee the most vulnerable women in the outskirts of Kinshasa adequate assistance during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as maternal and child care at Monkole Hospital.
The head of the gynaecology department is Dr Céline Tendobi, who graduated in medicine in Congo and specialised in gynaecology and ultrasound in Spain. She returned to her country with a single mission: to save mothers and their babies. We caught up with her by phone for an update.
What is the situation at the hospital at the moment? And what is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Monkole?
The situation seems to be improving after the second wave that hit us in December and January. The reduction in the number of staff who contracted the virus disrupted the organisation of daily work but now, fortunately, things are improving.
There are not enough tests in Kinshasa to have accurate data on the infection and the National Response Committee to Covid-19 has stopped issuing daily reports on the situation. We must take all precautions, the moment is delicate.
How many mothers does the hospital attend per month?
We do an average of 350-400 gynaecological and obstetric consultations in general, last month there were 108 deliveries. But we usually have 70-90 deliveries a month.
How is this new virus perceived by people?
To date, opinions are divided: some believe it exists, others do not. We have experience of health crises, but our health systems are particularly vulnerable and the economic and social consequences of a pandemic are difficult to manage.
What does Monkole Hospital represent for the population of Kinshasa?
Monkole offers quality care, our doctors and nurses are examples of humanity and care for all; patients say: ‘If you want to live, go to Monkole’. Many women with complications come from more distant areas to undergo specialist examinations or even caesarean sections; we are in a country with the highest maternal mortality rates in the world; there are not enough facilities to ensure adequate and timely care.
As a doctor who has worked in this hospital for many years, what are the goals you would like to see achieved in the near future?
We need diagnostic tools, equipment to be able to manage diseases in the best possible way, especially in cancer and gynaecology. We also need to be able to count on well-trained nurses, who can promptly assist women who generally have little knowledge. Well-trained nurses also run awareness-raising campaigns in neighbourhoods and among families, helping to prevent many of the most common problems.
What is your greatest satisfaction in the face of so many daily difficulties?
Every time we see the positive effects of our work, every time a woman arrives at the birth in good health and gives birth to a healthy child, despite the difficult conditions…that is the greatest joy.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE JOY OF MOTHERS AT MONKOLE: SUPPORT THE FORFAIT MAMA PROJECT.
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