Australian doctor tackles Congo health crisis

Dr Vera Sistenich with medical staff she trained in Congo, September 2015. (HandUp Congo) Source: HandUp Congo

Emergency Physician Dr Vera Sistenich is teaching life-saving emergency medicine in destitute communities of Congo.

The top ten causes of death in Congo are preventable - a figure Doctor Vera Sistenich knows all too well.

Dr Sistenich has worked in emergency medicine in South Africa, China, Nepal, and with refugee populations on Christmas and Manus Islands.  

Now, she is one of four Australian doctors training Congolese health professionals in life-saving emergency medicine.

"Little children dying of diarrhoea or adults dying of pneumonia, many of these things are entirely preventable," Dr Sistenich said.

Dr Sistenich and the team of doctors from HandUp Congo ran the first training program for registrars and medical students in Congo in September 2015.

The program provided hands-on training in cardiac life support, fluid resuscitation for children, basic ECG and obstetric scanning and contraceptive implant insertion.

The team also took more than 400 kilograms of donated medical equipment, eyeglasses, footballs and other community development resources to Congo.


In April this year, Dr Sistenich will return to Africa to attend the International Conference on Emergency Medicine and once again work with Congolese physicians to set out coordinated training plans across the country.

She will be working with the Protestant University of the Congo (UPC) to run a three-day emergency-medicine course focused on adult, paediatric and neonatal resuscitation.

"UPC have a reputable medical school and they have six training sites already spread across the country. So on this particular trip, I'll be visiting those six training sites," Dr Sistenich told SBS. 


Funding for healthcare in Congo ranks in the bottom ten per cent of countries around the world, with only three percent of it's GDP spent on health and medical services, according to the most recent Global Health Organisation statistics.  

"People in Congo are not only starved of physical resources, they're also starved of education and information. The information revolution has not arrived there," Dr Sistenich said.

Dr Sistenich is determined to change this and use her knowledge of emergency medicine to put an end to human suffering in Congo and around the world.

Source SBS

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