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Rapid Health Assessment of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda


Essey Workie PhotoEssey Workie is a Refugee Health Team Lead in the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Administration for Children and Families. She recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya, where she participated in an International Experience and Technical Assistance training program provided by Center for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While learning about refugee health, Workie agreed to share her experiences from inside refugee communities with The Family Room blog. This is her second blog contribution.

By Essey Workie

Over the last five months, thousands of Congolese civilians have rushed to neighboring countries to escape the violence between the national Congolese army and armed rebel groups. Many fled across the eastern border to Rwanda, which is where I’ve been for the last three weeks.

Big Picture

I teamed up with a group of health professionals from the International Organization for Migration and Centers for Disease Control-Kenya toCongolese Refugees in Rwanda being treated by medical staff. assess the health of more than 400 Congolese refugees. The goal of the Rapid Health Assessment (RHA) is to:

  • Create a health profile of Congolese refugees based on the aggregate data collected
  • Determine if the pre-departure protocol should be updated to meet the specific health needs of the Congolese refugee population

Rwanda hosts about 55,000 to 60,000 refugees, nearly all of whom are Congolese. Most refugees live in camps and a few live in the capital city of Kigali. The RHA provided medical exams and conducted laboratory tests using blood, urine and stool specimens, to assess hemoglobin levels and the prevalence of:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Malaria
  • HIV
  • Intestinal parasites

RHA in Different Sites

The RHA team is now in the process of sorting through data to create a health profile of refugees from Rwanda’s three camp sites - Kiziba in the east, Gihembe in the north, and Nyabiheke also in the north – and urban refugees in Kigali. (The RHA did not include refugees living in Kigeme camp, which recently opened in the southern area of Rwanda in response to the influx of refugees over the last five months.)

Heart of the Matter

The RHA provided treatment onsite whenever possible and referred individuals to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' health implementing partner at each location as needed – either the Africa Humanitarian Action or the American Refugee Committee.  As a preliminary observation, Congolese refugees who participated in the RHA seemed to have overall good health. Official findings will be released by CDC in the near future.

To read Essey's first blog, visit Urban Refugees: Living in Cities, Connected to Camps.

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