Democratic Republic of the Congo

Why Do We Work in Democratic Republic of the Congo?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is often referred to as “the worst place in the world to be a woman.” The reasons for this chilling title are many – although the country is rich in natural resources, decades of instability and violence have left the majority of the population in poverty; the fertility rate is among the highest in the world as are its maternal and infant mortality rates; access to quality healthcare is often limited; and most troubling, the unprecedented and systematic use of rape and sexual violence throughout the country. All of these issues have a particularly devastating impact on women and are correlated to the many cases of fistula found throughout DRC.

What You Help Us Do in DRC

We’re helping fund:

  • Fistula surgeries
  • Community outreach
  • Reintegration support


Panzi Hospital, Bukavu
HEAL Africa, Goma

How much funding have we granted?

Panzi Hospital

$150,000 in FY2014
$631,061 in FY2013
$226,856 in FY2011
$204,100 in FY2010
$200,000 in FY2009

HEAL Africa

$49,990 in FY2014
$50,000 in FY2013
$20,000 in FY2012
$100,000 in FY2011

Who is our partner?

We provide grant support directly to these organizations.

How will this help women in the Congo?

Determined to confront the overwhelming injuries of his home country’s population, Dr. Denis Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1999. Dr. Mukwege was inspired to pursue a medical specialization in gynecology and obstetrics after witnessing the insufficient medical care that women there were receiving, and his decision to found Panzi Hospital is a further testament to his commitment to the women of DRC. The 400-bed hospital is renowned for its services to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and survivors of sexual violence, including a large project aimed specifically at fistula. Since the hospital’s inception in 1999, over 2,800 women suffering from fistula have received free surgery and medical care. Since Fistula Foundation began funding the hospital’s fistula program in 2009, seven additional doctors have been trained in complex surgery procedures, fourteen nurses have received training in pre- and post-operative care, and a full-time anesthesiologist has been added on staff. Transportation, meals and lodging are provided to patients and community outreach is conducted regularly in order to identify new patients and raise awareness of fistula in communities.

HEAL Africa has been performing fistula repair since 2003. Their main facility is in the large town of Goma in Eastern DRC, but much of their recent work has focused on surrounding rural areas in the region. This includes sending outreach teams into rural areas to raise awareness, identifying new patients in need of treatment, and facilitating transport of patients to Goma. In some cases, mobile surgical teams are dispatched to community medical centers in an effort to make care more accessible to rural populations. These mobile surgical teams also train local surgeons in safe delivery procedures, Caesarian sections and emergency obstetric care.

In addition to providing free fistula surgeries and pre-and post-operative care, HEAL Africa teaches women how to sew, read, write and weave through HEALing Arts, a skill-building program for women who are awaiting or recovering from fistula surgery.


Where is Democratic Republic of the Congo?


Facts About Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Population:77,433,744
  • Average births per woman:4.8
  • Physicians per 10,000 people:1
  • Births attended by skilled personnel:80.4%
  • Lifetime risk of maternal death:1 in 30(chances a woman will die during childbirth)
  • Female life expectancy:58 years
  • Female literacy:57%
  • Population living in rural areas:65.2%
  • Population living in poverty:87%(less than $1.25/day)
  • Surgeries completed through Fistula Foundation funding to date:778

Sources: CIA World Fact Book; WHO, World Bank.

We’re Making a Difference in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Africa newsletter1

Dispatches from the Field

This September, Fistula Foundation Director of Marketing and Development Joop Rubens and Board member Dr. Larry William traveled to Central and East Africa to visit several of our partner sites. They began their journey at one of our longest-term partners, Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, before moving on to Kenya, Burundi…


Long Term Foundation Partner Honored by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

In a February 26 ceremony held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Panzi Hospital Founder, Dr. Denis Mukwege, was honored with the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security. The award was created by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, led by executive director and Georgetown alumna Melanne Verveer, who…

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