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At the heart of Democratic Republic of Congo’s equatorial forests, living standards of women and children are being improved by the provision of health and maternity facilities. Opala is a remote group of scattered villages in Eastern Province. The people work either as subsistence farmers or hunter-gatherers. Disease —including leprosy—is a major problem. HIV/AIDS, too, has begun to spread in the communities, following years of brutal civil war.
Until recently, the region had no proper health centre and no adequate maternity facilities. As a result, disease has been rampant among vulnerable sections of the population, young children, pregnant women and older people, in particular. Oblate missionaries on the ground in Opala responded to the situation and the obvious need to improve healthcare by planning and constructing a health centre with a maternity wing, giving people access to better primary health care. In particular, they wanted to improve the health of mothers-to-be and infants by providing maternity facilities.They applied for help the the Mission Development Office in Dublin, and we presented their project to Misean Cara.
In 2010, Misean Cara allocated co-funding support for the construction of a new maternity wing adjacent to the Yaoleka Health Centre in Opala. Local labour was enlisted to help with the preparation of the site and with constructing the building and installing the equipment. The local community, through financial donations and voluntary labour, is very much involved in the project, which is currently under construction. It is expected that this involvement will continue into the future, with people being encouraged to contribute ideas and solutions to any problems that may arise.
It is estimated that, annually, more than 12,000 people in the area will benefit from the medical services and over 5,000 women will benefit from the new maternity services.