In the Congolese village of Kiliwa, along the dusty road leading from Dungu, a lone healthcare outpost stands, scarred by fighting, with memories of the Congolese civil war, and of attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. To get here, one passes a Congolese army checkpoint. The driver remembers when, a year ago, two soldiers were killed here during an attack by the LRA.
Etched into crumbling walls is graffiti, mixing both supplications to God and images of AK-47s, with a red sort of honey oozing out of holes, left by the hornets that buzz around what constitute the wards.
Much of the local population has left Kiliwa, having fled the area due to attacks by the LRA. And for those that remain, there is a feeling that they have been forgotten. Chronic underdevelopment coupled with near-continuous conflict has degraded the state of health centres in most parts of Haut & Bas Uélé, says an NGO working in the area. “Most clinics lack essential equipments and majority of the health professionals are not properly trained.”
When working with NGOs in the region, one often sees the “successes”: the mosquito nets being handed out, immunisations being injected into the arms of young babies, free, primary health care. But here in Kiliwa, one has a brief glimpse of what it is like away from the fleets of white Land-Cruisers.
A nurse, alcohol on his breath, pricks the finger of an elderly lady to test for malaria. In the opposite room, a lady lies on a stained, bare mattress, a dressing on her leg from an infection brought on following treatment in the centre.
A sense of a people forgotten, or ignored, by their government. The ones who stayed behind.
Soon, the Land-Cruisers will be coming, to provide free health care to “the vulnerable”, and to train health professionals. But that can only ever be a short-term fix. It will help some, but the authorities running the country need to remember who they work for.