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HI in North Kivu: Emergency rehabilitation care for more than 1,600 conflict-affected people

Emergency Health Rehabilitation
Democratic Republic of Congo

For the last two years, HI's physiotherapists and psychologists have been travelling to highly insecure areas of North Kivu in DRC to assist more than 1,600 conflict-affected people. In Rutshuru (population 69,000), HI was the only NGO providing emergency rehabilitation care.

Kisubizo, a victim of the conflict in DRC, follows rehabilitation session with Jean Claude Karengane, an HI physio in Rutshuru.

Kisubizo, a victim of the conflict in DRC, follows rehabilitation session with Jean Claude Karengane, an HI physio in Rutshuru. | © Patrick Meinhardt/HI

The eighth poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffers chronic levels of poverty. Armed and intercommunity conflicts have been compounded by a worsening twenty-year humanitarian crisis. Some 15.6 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. There are more than 5 million internally displaced people - the largest internally displaced population in Africa  -  of whom 30 percent live in North Kivu. Between January and September 2019, at least 35,000 protection incidents such as sexual violence and kidnappings were recorded, of which 30 percent were in North Kivu.

The province of North Kivu is worst affected. The territories of Masisi, Walikale and Ruthsuru, where HI works, are affected by armed clashes, banditry and have experienced an upsurge in fighting in recent months. Some 70 armed groups are active in the region where thousands of kidnappings by rebel groups have been recorded. Many women are also victims of rape. Lastly, epidemics - Ebola, cholera, and measles - affect thousands, and there is a high risk of natural disasters: Nyiragongo volcano is the most dangerous in Africa. People with injuries and disabilities are particularly vulnerable in these situations.

Rehabilitation sessions

Over two years, more than 1,600 people with disabilities or injuries - victims of conflict, domestic violence and road accidents - have benefited from rehabilitation sessions with HI physiotherapists in Ruthsuru, Mweso, Virunga, Masisi and Tsikaji (Kasai Oriental). The organisation has also distributed more than 770 crutches, walking sticks, wheelchairs and tricycles to people in need, and more than 800 hygiene kits. 

"In Rutshuru Territory, which has a population of more than 69,000, HI is the only NGO providing emergency rehabilitation care. Many NGOs left the territory because the risk from insecurity was too great. This project makes a big difference."
Albert Nikiema, HI's rehabilitation project manager in DRC.

Psychological support

HI psychologists also organised one-to-one and group psychological support sessions with more than 1,500 traumatised people:

“Victims of violence are often psychologically broken. We run one-to-one and group sessions, so patients can express themselves, share their stories and support each other. Children are encouraged to play to rebuild their confidence. It is vital to systematically provide psychological support alongside rehabilitation sessions."
Jonathan Kakule, a psychologist at HI.

Access to healthcare

HI has also made it easier for conflict-affected people to access health centres, by training doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to treat and provide post-operative follow-up care to injured people, by training psychologists and psychosocial workers to care for victims of violence, and by covering the travel expenses of patients visiting health centres, and certain medical expenses (X-rays, etc.). HI has also set up activity rooms in health centres (mainly for psychosocial support sessions), and warehouses so physiotherapy equipment is not stored in rehabilitation areas.  

The rehabilitation and psychosocial support project run in North Kivu is closing at the end of February 2020 due to a lack of funding, even though the needs remain extremely high.

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