Gates of custody open


When Euphrasie Sadende went to deliver for her first time in 2006, she was kept in her nearby hospital for three months. She was unable to pay the bills. Her firstborn passed away because of lack necessary care. A governmental measure relieved their situation in 2007. All under-five children and pregnant women are treated for free. They were lucky to give birth to Jamila and Fidia afterward, thanks to that measure. However, one issue still needed to be solved, their personal healthcare.

“I regret to have gone that way, but I had no other way to get out of the hospital, I escaped,”
says Ephrasie.

Ephrasie was kept in Muyinga hospital, northeast of Burundi for three months before she escaped.
One evening in 2006, she was getting ready to deliver a baby, and her husband and neighbourhood took her to Gasorwe health facility, a private health centre in the neighbourhood. Nuns running that health centre found her situation beyond their capacity; they recommend her to go to Muyinga hospital.

“It was midnight and there was a darkness I had never seen. I will never forget that night,” recounts Vincent Uwizeyimana, her husband.

Vincent, who works as a luggage carrier at a small market of Gasorwe, explains that when the nuns told him that he had to carry his wife to another health facility because she needed a surgery, he moved around asking for a financial support, starting from his parents and then to his family in law; none of them were able to support him.

He decided to carry her that same dark night all the same well. When Euphrasie arrived there, she delivered by surgery. Tragically, the child died two days later.

“My child would not have died if I had money to pay. Nurses did not take care of him. They kept asking me to pay money, to buy this and that. We had no money that time, we were very poor,” she says.

Vincent nods as he follows his wife’s recounting. “They were asking for more than 190,000 Burundian francs [123 US dollars], I still even don’t remember the exact amount, because it was my first time to hear someone asking me for such a huge amount of money,” Vincent interjects.

The two parents pleaded together, asking to be released so as to go and search for the money. The hospital was firm; no one should leave before they pay.

When Vincent realized that the clinic was firm in detaining his wife, he started to strategize on how to help her escape in vain. The hospital had people controlling movements of patients. Many people inside were not able to pay, and the hospital wanted to keep them inside until they pay their bills.

Vincent got discouraged and went home, to never come back.

What relieved a little bit his pain was that he knew that relatives and other people by sympathy were bringing her food in the clinic, he says.

To make the long story short, Ephrasie escaped.

Back home, she and her husband started making saving to get prepared for the next births.

By chance, one year later in 2007, the government of Burundi declared free health services for pregnant women and children under five. Euphrasie and her husband were excited to hear about the measure, but were still concerned by the fact that they can fall ill too. Their decision remains valid.

“It was even hard to buy clothes for my children, what concerned us most was getting food for them,” Euphrasie remembers.

Elysee Nibitanga, ADP projects coordinator in Gasorwe ADP, explains that World Vision decided to support vulnerable parents with insurance cards, when three children died early this year in one month. Their parents did not take them to hospital because of poverty.

With insurance cards, patients pay only 20 per cent of the whole cost.

“There is a difference between 100 and 20,” Vincent says, smiling.

With this insurance card; they say to feel secure because every member of the family has access to healthcare at a low cost. Their children are enjoying some benefits they used to miss.
Vincent has recently bought a school uniform for Jamila and and another new dress for Fidia.

Helena Nibitanga, a nurse in Muyinga hospital, finds that with insurance cards the number of people who fail to pay their bills has reduced a lot.

“We were losing twice, we had to find a room for the people retained and the new coming patients,” she says.