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Addressing health needs helps gorilla conservation

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s work protecting critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo takes place in remote forests, where many local villages are extremely impoverished and lack basic services.

The Fossey Fund believes that addressing the health, food security, livelihood and education needs of local communities is critical to successful conservation and at the same time helps people directly benefit from, and become more engaged with, conservation activities.

One of our projects in this area has focused on increasing access to basic healthcare services through a health clinic located near our Nkuba Conservation Area base, which we were able to rebuild in 2016. Here, local residents, including those who work for us and their families, can get basic health services, medications, laboratory testing, health screenings, some maternity services and minor emergency care. The Fossey Fund also supplies medicines for the clinic.

This work helps improve the health of the community overall and also reduces the risk of transmission of human diseases – such as parasitic infections —  to the gorillas and other animals in the forest. Illness caused by malaria and lack of clean water are common here and can be treated at the clinic, along with other frequent health conditions.

Nkuba clinic: A place of hope

Jerome Mgumu, a 73-year-old man who lives in Nkuba village, often comes to the clinic, since he has been diagnosed with asthma and relies on medication to control it. Jerome considers this clinic as a place of hope for many people in this region. “This health clinic provides care for many people who would otherwise have nowhere to go,” he says.

“This clinic is very important to us as villagers living in Nkuba,” adds 37-year-old Mutarumbu Munongo Didier. “I remember before this clinic, we used to take traditional medicine for malaria at home. One day, I went into a coma, and they brought me here to the clinic. Luckily, they gave me the medicine I needed and I recovered. After this clinic was built, no one is getting very sick at home anymore.

“Another time, my children had anemia and we brought them here. The clinician gave them the proper medicine and they are fine now. Many thanks to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund for bringing this clinic to us,” he adds.

“This clinic is extremely useful for the people living in the Nkuba area,” says Eliza Butu, a clinician who works there. “Every month, we receive more than 100 patients with a wide variety of different health issues and diseases. Our team of clinicians are able to provide them with the care and treatment they need in order to improve their health. We are so happy to be able to serve so many people in our community!” 

Click here to read a story about a clinic nurse who was formerly a poacher in the forest. https://gorillafund.org/congo/from-poacher-to-healer/