KINSHASA, Congo – Crowds gathered, some with pre-registered tickets in hand, others with just a hope of being seen by a healthcare professional.
“I saw a crowd of people and asked what was going on,” said Ousmane Kalotho Mutuala, a Kinshasa resident. “When they told me it was for medical care, I immediately went and got my friend who can barely see because his eyes are so bad and came back to try and get in.”
The lines started forming hours before the humanitarian civic action site opened its doors for medical and dental care to the residents of Kinshasa. Residents that had tickets were registered in advance, ensuring they would be seen on a certain date. Even though some residents did not have tickets, like Mutuala, medical providers saw them.
“Unfortunately there is a much bigger demand then what we have assets for,” said Maj. Curt Kroh of Washburn, N.D., a physician assistant with the North Dakota National Guard’s 814th Army Support Medical Company based in Bismarck. “However, we stayed until we ran out of time and material.”
Kroh is part of MEDFLAG 10, a joint medical exercise that allows U.S. military medical personnel and Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to work side by side while providing humanitarian assistance to Kinshasa residents. Over a four-day period, FARDC and U.S. medical personnel provided assistance to approximately 2,000 residents.
Residents were treated for various illnesses ranging from high blood pressure to malaria. The most common problem seen was residents with eye problems, because they have never been examined, said Kroh. In addition to medical attention, dentists provided care ranging from basic oral hygiene to tooth extraction.
FARDC and U.S. medical personnel roughly totaled 25 medical and dental providers, with an additional 50 as support staff.
“The bulk of the medical care that was provided in the exam rooms were by FARDC doctors,” said Kroh. “The FARDC doctors are very well involved in the treatment of the local population.”
While all residents could not be seen and all problems could not be treated, residents were entered into the medical system and given referral letters for follow-up care.