Champion of the Congo: Working to ensure a better future
The Future Offensive Sister Marguerite De Clerck has worked as a diabetes expert in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for over 50 years. She gives us an incredible insight into the lives of people with diabetes in this country.
How has diabetes healthcare progressed in the DRC since you started working there?
I started a clinic in a very big city hospital in 1974, with the assistance of two nurses, who are still working in diabetes today. Nobody was really interested and I was told that chronic diseases were hopeless, the patients would die anyway.
Luckily things progressed in our very big city of Kinshasa with clinics for diabetes in many primary healthcare centres. This year we see more or less 10,000 regular patients in more than 80 clinics, and a team of 12 doctors are involved.
What challenges continue to affect diabetes care in DRC?
First of all improving the actual care of people with diabetes, especially if they have been admitted to hospital. Organising clinics in different provinces with good and affordable care also remains a challenge as does the education of patients, families and doctors or nurses. Finally, special care for young adults with Type 1 diabetes remains a massive obstacle. They need special assistance, education, psychological and financial support.
Can you recall one particular success story from your patients?
When visiting a very active programme in Uvira, I met Dieudonné. The picture (right) is testimony to what insulin can do. In the photo he holds another photo of himself when he was admitted close to death. Six months later he is a proud man, in good health and
facing the future with confidence.
What is one change to healthcare you wish could happen immediately?
Organising special clinics for young adults with Type 1 diabetes. This would be accompanied by a year of special training for nurses caring for people with diabetes in primary care settings.