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Supporting the global community – transforming lives in the DRC

As the health fund created by teachers, for teachers – just like you we understand the value of building a better future for generations to come. So we’re excited to bring you news of our three-year partnership with Australia for UNHCR to help deliver neonatal care to 11,000 displaced mothers and their newborn babies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The numbers

Did you know that more than 4.5 million people have been displaced by conflict within the DRC? And 541,000 refugees (source) from neighbouring countries have fled there in search of safety? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? Humanitarian needs are enormous and pregnant women and infants are amongst the most vulnerable.

In the DRC, mothers and babies without antenatal care face serious risks. Every year 96,000 newborns (source) in the DRC die before they are one month old. Up to half of these babies – the future generation – don’t survive their first 24 hours (source).

Life-saving partnership

Through our partnership with Australia for UNHCR, we’ll help to support antenatal, obstetric and postnatal care – including equipment such as infant incubating heaters and portable ultrasound machines, medicines and disposable equipment for delivery kits and training for birth attendants.

In March, Teachers Health staff members Penny Jones and Reshma Joseph travelled with a team from Australia for UNHCR to a remote corner of the DRC to see first-hand the impact of our partnership and what more needs to be done.

Supporting communities

In Inke village, where around one-third of the population are refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), the team saw local health facilities that our partnership has supported. Dr Nellie Sandwa and her team of nurses showed the delegation the health centre used by up to 400 patients each week. “Seeing this health centre really brought to life the support that Teachers Health has provided,” said Penny. “The centre has made such a difference to this community. The waiting room was absolutely full of new mothers and babies waiting to be seen for a consult and vaccinations.” Reshma commented, “I was amazed, I was on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster!”.

In another village, Lembo, the team met CAR refugee and mother of nine, Josie-Esther. She told them that before the health centre was established, she saw women dying giving birth. “Before there was no delivery bed, no mosquito nets. Women would give birth before they could get to a health centre and had to bring their own mats to birth on. There was no electricity and children were dying. Before it was darkness, now it is light.

Leading the way

Naomi Steer, National Director for Australia for UNHCR said, “It was really powerful to see the tangible impact of our efforts in Australia. We saw a humidicrib for premature babies, medicines and a special delivery bed. This support from Teachers Health comes at a critical time for UNHCR with record levels of displacement. I’m very grateful to Teachers Health for taking a leadership role and supporting refugees through this important and innovative partnership.

We’re excited about our partnership with Australia for UNHCR and proud of the support we’ll be providing. In addition to our national work supporting our education communities, this partnership gives us a unique opportunity to make a tangible difference on a global level. Whether it’s helping to provide a roof on a medical centre or improving the availability of medical staff, our work with Australia for UNHCR will contribute to saving the lives of mothers and their newborns in the DRC. We look forward to bringing you more news of this life-saving partnership.

If you would like to support the women of the DRC or watch a video about the partnership, visit unrefugees.org.au/health