PATH reaffirms commitment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

March 2, 2016 by PATH

In a country of many health needs, on a scale that can be hard to imagine, we see progress and hope for the future.
A medical worker listens to a pregnant woman's belly with an ear trumpet.

A health worker examines a pregnant woman at a health care facility in the Haut-Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: PATH/Felix Masi.

In late 2013, when PATH’s CEO, Steve Davis, traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to meet with staff and partners on the ground, the country was still feeling the tumultuous aftereffects of a decade-long civil war. While the war formally ended in 2006, unrest continued for many years and left the country with scant resources and collapsed systems to meet myriad health needs.

“Read this post in French: PATH réaffirme son engagement vis-à-vis de la République Démocratique du Congo”

Last month, PATH’s Kathy Cahill and David Fleming, vice presidents for International Development and Public Health, respectively, saw firsthand much of the progress that has been made in the subsequent years.

David Fleming, a health care worker, and Kathy Cahill stand in front of a sign.

Dr. David Fleming and Kathy Cahill visit a ProVICplus-facilitated HIV-prevention community outreach program in Kasumbalesa, DRC. Photo: PATH/JC Kiluba.

PATH has maintained an active footprint in the DRC since 2009 when we launched our flagship integrated HIV/AIDS project, ProVIC. Yet Kathy and David’s visit came at a critical time as PATH looks to build on our existing portfolio and forge a lasting partnership with the Ministry of Health as it faces new and ongoing challenges.

One of the most immediate issues that we and our partners see evolving rapidly is a decentralization from national to sub-provincial levels that puts increased decision-making power at a more local level. With ongoing project work in more than 15 provinces and 100 health facilities, PATH is well-positioned to understand the significant hurdles in making sure the vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations have access to necessary health services. By meeting with officials in Haut-Katanga and Kinshasa provinces, Kathy and David were able to get a much clearer picture of how PATH can continue to focus efforts strategically to add the most value.

“One of the things that struck me most was the incredible depth of capacity and commitment among the Ministry of Health staff. It is essential that we continue building on our existing efforts so that the government and partners have the right tools and systems in place to meet the communities’ needs.”
— Kathy Cahill
A laboratory technician looks up from a microscope as she works in a lab.

PATH’s MalariaCare project enhances the capacity of health workers at the provincial and local levels to diagnose cases of malaria and ensure people who test positive are quickly put on treatment. Photo: PATH/Felix Masi.

In fact, one of the most productive aspects of a week-long agenda packed with site visits, planning sessions with local PATH staff, and opportunities to learn from partners on the ground was a formal audience with around 40 officials from the Ministry of Health in Kinshasa, including the secretary general, Dr. Mukengeshayi Kupa.

In addition to our ongoing work in the DRC, the meeting was the perfect opportunity for PATH’s in-country and global leadership to highlight how we are addressing health needs around the world. This is work that ranges from malaria diagnosis and treatment to family planning and immunizations. It also served as a key opportunity to hear from dedicated local experts who are rebuilding a health system that has been fractured for decades as a result of civil conflict.

David Fleming talks to a health care worker outside a building as two other men look on.

Dr. David Fleming meets with the deputy director of Kinshasa National Laboratory, where they discussed strengthening laboratory systems for malaria control. Photo: PATH/JC Kiluba.

“Our work from the health facility level all the way to national discussions around the introduction of new vaccines has the ability to make a significant impact in the DRC. But this is a country of so many health needs on a scale that can often be hard to imagine. PATH is firmly committed to thinking outside the box to expand our footprint and be a strategic and value-added partner to the government for even greater impact.”
— Trad Hatton, PATH’s DRC Country Leader

That juxtaposition between need and opportunity was never more apparent than when the PATH leaders traveled to a major border-crossing near the city of Lubumbashi, where thousands of long-haul truck drivers pass through every week and the risk of HIV transmission is always present. It was there that Kathy and David had the chance to meet many of the same health workers, community volunteers, and dedicated PATH staff with whom Steve Davis met during his 2013 trip.

Through lively and in-depth conversation with these tireless individuals working to ensure the health of their own community, PATH’s leaders were reminded of the DRC’s great potential to make significant health strides in the decade to come. And the importance of PATH’s role in helping to make that possible.

In the words of the minister of health, Dr. Félix Kabange Numbi Mukwampa, who met in person with Steve Davis at the Ministerial Meeting on Immunization in Africa (held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the week after Kathy and David’s visit to the DRC), “Together, we can do more.”

A group of people stand between tents, flanking Kathy Cahill and David Fleming.

PATH meets with members of BAK-Congo, a nonprofit on the border of Zambia. HIV transmission is high in this area where sex workers are frequented by truck drivers who transport copper and other minerals to South Africa and back. Photo: PATH/JC Kiluba.