The Congo: What a difference free healthcare makes
We went to a health centre today. It was FABULOUS. They have a well-stocked pharmacy, a clean birthing room with birthing table, weighing scales and curtains across the window for privacy. Next door to the birthing room was the labour room with beds, blankets and mosquito nets. Next door to that is the mother and baby room where two new mothers were spending time getting to know their brand-new person. All of the rooms were clean and light — somewhere they could feel at home.
In the in-patient room I met Kahambu Nzuba and her four-month-old baby boy. Kahambu was resting on her bed, elegantly draped in a blue and yellow printed fabric and sequinned headscarf. Her baby was a sleepy tuft of fluffy hair escaping from a pink wrap. Kahambu and I had a conversation via two other people – English, to French, to Swahili, and back again. The baby sensibly stayed quiet and snacked on breast milk.
Kahambu came in five days ago because her son had a fever and a cough. The fever hasn’t yet gone down, but she can stay here where he has 24-hour access to professional care until he’s better.
The treatment for her baby is free and her meals and accomodation while she stays with him are free. If they weren’t free she couldn’t be here.
Kahambu works on a tea plantation and, even if her wages covered the cost of treatment, the lost earnings while she stayed with her son would be too much to bear. She has another four sons to feed, and her husband is away.
As it is, her baby is getting the medical treatment and the mother’s love he needs — and he’s getting it on the frontline between two fighting armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This is something every baby, every child, every mother has a right to wherever they are, and until they all do, we’ll keep working.
Over 9 million children die every year from preventable conditions, but this one won’t.