DR Congo: UN-backed health insurance plan provides coverage for refugees

28 December 2009
Medical staff at a major referral hospital in the DRC which is taking part in the health insurance programme

A $6,000-per-month United Nations investment in a pioneering health care scheme is paying significant dividends for nearly 1,500 refugees living in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who fled neighbouring countries.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spends just $30 a month for each refugee family, up to seven or eight people, on a life-saving medical insurance plan administered by the Bureau Diocésain des Ouvres Médicales.

Under that plan, which was established in 1978 and covers 2 million people in Kinshasa, refugees in the Congolese capital are assigned to a health centre close to home for primary care and can be referred to a major hospital, for more complicated treatment.

UNHCR joined the BDOM system this year after an extensive evaluation of refugees’ complaints about the quality of medical services they received.

“Now that half of all refugees are living in cities, we are having to look at more innovative ways of delivering services to them,” said Paul Spiegel, head of UNHCR Public Health and HIV Section.

“The health insurance programme in Kinshasa may be one example we will want to consider duplicating for refugees in other major cities,” he added.

Local health care experts say the system is more efficient, with less bureaucracy and more focus on the health of the patients, and refugees are not only assured medical treatment but are free from discrimination when they arrive at the hospital.


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