A view of the health centre in Kindele
A view of the health centre in Kindele

I wanted to write this short story following two field missions I was part of with an international NGO operating in the DRC in the child sector. Being a professional interpreter for English, French and a number of Congolese dialects, I often find myself at the forefront of activities that give a first-hand understanding of what is happening in the not-so-posh parts of the country.
It also helps me properly contrast that unique knowledge with the disingenuous presentation made of the realities of the country from an urban-centric perspective.
The mission I am currently with aims to make a movie to create empathy in West to support vaccination in the DRC. This leads us to tour of a number of medical facilities across Kinshasa in search of case studies that best encapsulate the dire conditions of childbirth. According to statistics, that claims the live of one out of ten women in the country.
So we go to this health centre located in Kindele. Those familiar with Kinshasa know that Kindele equates with the outskirts of Kinshasa where the benefits of modernity are seldom seen or enjoyed. It is a sample of poverty stricken parts of the mineral rich nation and a concentrate of human misery.

Upon arrival, there is a woman that has just gone into labour for her seventh baby. She visibly is in pain and despite her many efforts to push the baby out, nothing happens.
It turns out the baby is breached and the health centre is not equipped to conduct a caesarean section. Neither does it have an ambulance to swiftly relocate the ailing pregnant woman to the nearest, better equipped, clinic.
Although we came to actually film the birth and showcase the predicament that childbirth is to the majority of Congolese women, we end up converting our jeep into a makeshift ambulance.
She is hurried onto the back seat of the jeep where a plastic sheet was a few minutes earlier placed to prevent any infection.

As the baby is stuck with the umbilical cord around its neck, the doctor must literally keep it from strangling itself with the cord. He does so by maintaining his hand on the woman’s private part throughout the trip to the better clinic.
I have never seen that, not even in the wildest movies.
The road to the clinic is bumpy and full of potholes. The traffic is so bad that it slows down the life-saving evacuation. The longer it takes to reach the clinic the unlikelier for the baby and/or the mother to survive.
An hour or so later the “ambulance” reaches the clinic, but unfortunately only in time to save the mother. The baby choked to death.
Giving life in the DRC is a life-threating business for Congolese women.

By Aimé Zonveni (@Zonveni )