Africa: working for health in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of the Congo

27 January 2006

Located 730 km north-east of Kinshasa, Mbandaka is the capital of Equateur Province. Over 200 000 people live in Mbandaka. There is no electricity and no piped water. There are also no taxis, buses, trains or ambulances in the town. Transport to and from Kinshasa is either by one of the six weekly flights to the small airport, or by boat on the Congo river – a journey taking around one week each way.

Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, acute respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS are among the most common diseases affecting the community. Monkeypox, onchocerciasis and African trypanosomiasis are endemic in the region, and epidemic-prone diseases include measles and meningitis. The incidence of chronic diseases – although low – is increasing in the area.

At the Mbandaka General Reference Hospital, staff work to save lives, relieve suffering and empower the community to become healthier. Below, four health workers from the hospital tell their stories.

Dr Jacquim Mafuwala, doctor and chief of staff

Mrs Mani Kanza, nurse and theatre technician

Mr Bernard Tshilenge Muswamba, laboratory technician

Mr Magellan Bongogo, administrator