Thanks to you, over $1.2 million has been raised since May 2018 to improve healthcare for refugee women and their newborns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).


More than 4.5 million people have been internally displaced by conflict within the DRC, and some 541,000 refugees from neighbouring countries have fled there in search of safety. Humanitarian needs are enormous, and pregnant women and infants are amongst the most vulnerable.

The situation for newborns is dire – every year, 96,000 newborns in the DRC die before the end of their first month of life. Up to half of these babies don’t survive their first 24 hours.

In response to this crisis, Australian not-for-profit health fund, Teachers Health, began a three-year partnership with Australia for UNHCR in 2018 to support maternal and neonatal care in the DRC.

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

“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, all of which were directly funded by Australia for UNHCR’s donors and Teachers Health,” says Australia for UNHCR’s Debra O’Neill.

Teachers Health’s Reshma Joseph holds a newborn baby at Inke health centre. © Australia for UNHCR

“We met many women whose lives – and the lives of their babies – had been saved by the health centre.”

The team was welcomed to the health centre with dance performances and plays. But it wasn’t just a cultural welcome – a local drama group has developed the plays and dances as part of community education and outreach to inform locals and refugees about the health centre, and encourage them to attend if they have symptoms of illness.

Dr Nellie Sangwa and her team of nurses showed the delegation the health centre, including the seven rooms used for consultations and procedures for up to 400 patients each week. The team also spoke with women who had been assisted at the health centre – provided with healthcare and support such as anti-malarial treatment, iron supplements, and mosquito nets.

In another village, Lembo, the health centre is also supported by UNHCR.

“Seeing this health centre really brought to life the funding that Teachers Health has provided,” says Penny Jones. “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.”


Congolese health worker Max Nzinga attends to CAR refugee Bridgette and her son Elkana at Inke health centre. © Australia for UNHCR

In Lembo the team met Josie-Esther, a mother of nine and a refugee from CAR. She told them that before the health centre was established, she saw women dying from 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,” she says.

“Before it was darkness, now it is light.”

To learn more about Teachers Health visit

Australia for UNHCR’s Debra O’Neill gives a new mother and her baby Pauline a toy at Inke health centre. © Australia for UNHCR

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