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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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About HEAL Africa

HEAL Africa’s hospital and community development work address the root causes of illness and poverty for the people of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The hospital and the 28 women’s houses in Maniema and North Kivu have provided a safe place for many victims of the war, and have been a motor for combating poverty and promoting community cohesion over the past 14 years.


In North Kivu province, HEAL Africa has received grants from UNICEF and other organizations to provide free health and psychosocial services to survivors of gender based violence (GBV). HEAL Africa has partnered with UNICEF since July of 2003, identifying and assisting 14,983 sexual violence survivors; providing medical care to more than 12,419 of them; repairing 1,625 fistula (a part due to rape and the majority as a consequence of unsafe deliveries); and administering 3354 treatments for the prevention of the infection of HIV (“PEP kit” treatment).

In Maniema Province, since 2005, HEAL Africa has provided similar services to 9652 survivors in 6 health zones with funding from the German Development Bank and the Royal Dutch Embassy.

North Kivu Statistics recorded for the period of July 2008 to June 2009
6092 survivors of rape identified

  • 67% of survivors identified were over the age of 18
  • 33% of survivors identified were under the age of 18
  • 53% of the total number of survivors identified received medical care
  • 38% of the total number of survivors identified received Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV
  • 100% of the total number of survivors identified received psychosocial support
  • 21% of the total number of survivors identified benefited from socio-economic activities whereas 10% benefited from vocational training

Mobile clinic

  • Mobile clinics identified and assisted 263 of the 6092 survivors
  • 38% of the 263 received PEP


HEAL Africa assists survivors of sexual violence in the North Kivu territories of Masisi, Walikale, Rutshuru and Lubero. Over 100 counselors trained and supported by HEAL Africa are responsible for identifying incidents of sexual violence, providing confidential psychosocial support to survivors and conducting appropriate referrals so survivors may access all available services to assist them during their recovery process. In addition to providing individual psychosocial services, counselors collaborate with local authorities and leaders as well as community members to raise awareness on the prevention and response of GBV.


Since 2005, UNICEF has developed an emergency response strategy in North Kivu in collaboration with HEAL Africa, with the aim of providing emergency medical and psychological support to survivors of sexual violence, within 48 hours after a conflict or a crisis. The emergency response relies on a mobile team comprising of a physician, psychologist, nurse, psychosocial counselor and driver. The mobile team is able to respond to emergencies reported by humanitarian actors or local health and social structures within 24 hours. The most complex cases are transferred to HEAL Africa hospital for specialized care. Global Strategies for HIV Prevention has also made PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) available for women within 72 hours of rape, and has helped HEAL Africa train nurses in rural health centers to use it.

To ensure greater accessibility to services, HEAL Africa supports 64 health centers. Support to remote health centers in sometimes conflict affected areas enables survivors to access services without delay. HEAL Africa conducts regular supervisory visits to each of the 64 health structures to assess quality and reinforce the capacity of health personnel. Health structures are provided with lifesaving medicines as well as needed equipment.


With support from UNICEF, the HEAL Africa hospital provides survivors of sexual violence with confidential and survivor centered services such as psychosocial care, testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, and appropriate medical and surgical care, including fistula repair. To reduce the risk of HIV transmission, survivors referred to HEAL Africa supported health facilities receive post- exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours after the assault. Emergency contraception is also available to survivors within 120 hours of the assault.


Beyond medical assistance, HEAL Africa provides holistic services to survivors to support them throughout different stages of recovery. HEAL Africa provides survivors with clothing and basic household items based on need. HEAL Africa offers follow-up psychosocial services and socio-economic activities to assist survivors in regaining independence and self-confidence. Legal assistance is offered to survivors through the Legal Clinic run by the American Bar Association. By providing survivors with a ‘one stop shop’ within the hospital, prosecutions of criminal over the last year has increased from 12 to 140.

Due to the unique needs of survivors and potential for complications after fistula repair, HEAL Africa opened a recovery center for survivors necessitating regular medical observations. Survivors residing in the recovery center receive ongoing psychosocial support in addition to opportunities for pursuing socio-economic activities. Survivors are able to take literacy classes as well as learn sewing, embroidery, basket making and knitting. Their creations are then sold in the hospitals Healing Arts Center, with profits going to the women and to pay for the costs of the training. Should their health permit, survivors may also receive instruction on a variety of agricultural techniques.


In 2008, UNICEF provided HEAL Africa with $1.2 million to treat 3,000 survivors of sexual violence and to educate and support 50,000 community members dealing with sexual violence repercussions, prevention mechanisms, medical and psychosocial response. Since 2005, UNICEF has also funded Children Like Us, providing orthopedic surgery for children with disabilities; and PMTCT+, providing treatment for children living with HIV. HEAL Africa has also received funding from the German Government, Netherlands Government, and a variety of US, European, Australian donors.


Violence against women will not be stopped by legislation alone. The community must believe that the law is in their best interests; they must ensure compliance rather than sanction deviance. HEAL Africa’s community-based network of faith-based groups (church and mosque leaders) is carrying forward Gender and Justice awareness training and action plans in rural areas throughout Maniema and North Kivu. At the same time, women are equipped to enjoy their rights and participate fully in community decision-making through the 28 Wamama Simameni houses (Women Stand Up Together) where they have access to literacy training, counselors, legal advice, income generation training and micro-finance solidarity groups.

Other Programs of HEAL Africa:

  • Tertiary Referral Hospital: specialist curative care, especially fistula repair & orthopedic surgery.
  • Specialist training for doctors: for the future of Africa, in surgery, pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine and family medicine, in collaboration with the University of Goma.
  • Orthopedic Officers training: university level specialist nursing diploma to provide highly skilled nurses to hospitals where there is no orthopedic surgeon.
  • Choose Life: a community based program addressing the issues of HIV/AIDS through churches and mosques; it has developed clinical care, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission, anti- retroviral therapy, palliative and home-based care to help the terminally ill.
  • Heal My People: counseling for victims of sexual violence in complement to medical treatment.
  • Safe Motherhood: community based maternity insurance groups preventing maternal mortality, promoting child spacing and empowering women.
  • Children Like Us: identifies and treats children with disabilities through the Mercy Fund.
  • Nehemiah Initiative: a community based development program promoting self-reliance and care for the vulnerable.   Trains and equips community leaders from churches and mosques to help the most vulnerable in their societies and build community cohesion.
  • Grounds for Hope: a safe village for women survivors of sexual violence who have an irreparable fistula, enabling them rebuild their lives in a supportive environment.
  • Healing Arts: a program for survivors of sexual violence to learn sewing, therapeutic arts and crafts, literacy, soap making, and many other skills, and also earn income while at the hospital.
  • Tujiunge kwa Mkopo rotating credit: sustainable development program designed to give vulnerable families a capital boost to start their own small business, provide for their families, develop leadership skills and put money into savings.
  • Wamama Simameni (Women Stand Up Together): 18 houses in North Kivu and ten in Maniema, owned and run by women for their own empowerment and development. Safe lodging for women in transit, and space for classes for women in the community: sewing, literacy, bread baking and soap-making.
  • Living Stones: agricultural program that promotes better agricultural techniques through demonstration gardens, helping widows and families grow vegetables and trees for food and profit.
  • Gender and Justice: Introduces critical analysis of practice and culture relating to gender through discussions that inform and help villagers think through their experience against the framework of cultural practice, proverbs, wisdom books and the 2006-adopted constitution of DR Congo.
  • AMAVESA: Program for widows to work in cooperative groups, helping themselves and others with income generating activities, protection of their rights, savings programs, and spiritual support.
  • Orphans and vulnerable children: setting them up in foster care rather than institutionalize them in orphanages, with one time grants to families receiving orphans; sponsorships provide school, clothing, food and medical treatment for children to break the cycle of poverty.
Prepared in Goma, Democratic Republic Congo by Lyn Lusi, Program Manager.   August, 2009

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