DR Congo, one of the largest and poorest countries in Africa, has had many tragic periods over its history of violence, including its recent history. Civil war began in 1996, and devastated the country with an estimated death count of more than 8 million. The wars involved nine other African countries and a long-term UN peacekeeping presence. DR Congo has abundant natural resources, but size, geography, lack of infrastructure, poverty and lawlessness combine to make it a very challenging country in which to work.
The Leprosy Mission is very well-regarded in DR Congo, especially by the Evangelical Church, because of the quality of cross-cultural mission staff – particularly the remarkable Dr John Harris – who worked there until the 1980s. There are now around 15 staff, all Congolese, working from a newly-constructed office in the capital Kinshasa and in health districts that are endemic with leprosy (Kasai Occidental, Kongo Central, Maniema, Sankuru and South Kivu). TLM’s country leader in DR Congo is Dr Louis Paluku Sabuni. The total cost of the programme is around £600,000 per year. All TLM’s projects in the country have two underlying goals: that persons affected by leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases should have access to an integrated quality service in each district; and that the way TLM works with communities affected by leprosy should result in long-term sustainable improvements in their lives.