Anger after former conjoined twin dies of malaria

A student doctor who organised surgery to separate conjoined twins in the Democratic Republic of Congo said he was “furious” when one died of malaria.

Anick and Destin were flown from a remote village of Muzombo to the capital, Kinshasa, to be operated on by a team of volunteer surgeons in 2017.

But Destin passed away before the twins’ first birthday.

Dr Junior Mudji said: “I couldn’t believe how one could die of an easily treatable condition.”

“I was furious and angry,” he told the BBC.

“Every time a kid under five dies because of malaria it is a tragedy, but this one was so sad to me.”

Dr Mudji, who is part of a global healthcare leadership programme at the Said Business School in Oxford, discovered the fate of Destin after getting back in touch with the family in their extremely rural village.

He said: “[It was] a feeling of devastation. It was not acceptable.

“It was a shock for me to find out, but at the same time it’s common in my hospital. Almost every day we have a child dying of malaria.”

Dr Mudji is also chief of research and director of education at Vanga Evangelical Hospital.

“Malaria is still now a huge killer,” he said. “The Democratic Republic of Congo carries about 12% of the overall malaria around the world. It’s clear we have so many things to do.

“We need help. It’s difficult to accept a situation where a child has been saved from a very difficult situation and then died from malaria… this shows in the inequality and inequity we have in our global health care.”

He called on politicians and pharmaceutical companies to “put their energy, knowledge, skills together” and “find new solutions to innovate what we can do with the local communities”.

The twins were born at 37 weeks joined at the navel, sharing some internal organs.

Realising they needed surgery, their parents Claudine Mukhena and Zaiko Munzadi wrapped them in a blanket and set off on an epic journey.

The one-week-old girls had to endure an 870-mile (1,400km) round trip across jungle, on treacherous roads, and by air.

Dr Mudji believes the operation was the first to separate conjoined twins in the country.

Malaria mostly kills babies and infants. Caused by parasites transmitted through mosquito bites, it disproportionately affects Africa.

The world’s first, large-scale campaign against malaria began last year, developed by pharmaceutical company GSK.

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