Jacques Sebisaho

Health | Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Zaire)

2013 New Voices Fellow


Jacques Sebisaho, MD,  is from one of the remotest places in Africa:  Idjwi island in Lake Kivu between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

While neighboring countries have been beset by wars and violence Idjwi has remained a peaceful oasis, albeit one left behind by many development advances that have been made in better-known areas of the continent.

Sebisaho, who left the DRC and eventually worked at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, returned to Idjwi and was shattered by what he found in what he calls “a forgotten place”.

“The people of Idjwi had nothing – no clothes, no running water, no electricity and most importantly, no hospital,” Sebisaho says, describing the start of his project to build up health care services on the island that he hopes will one day serve as a model for other communities in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

“We no longer live in an era where solutions come exclusively from “Technical Experts”. Traditional leadership in the developing world tends to speak first; modern leadership must learn to listen first. When we made this a reality in Idjwi, we knew we were having an impact,” he says.

Sebisaho holds a Medical Degree from the National University of Rwanda, a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science from Catholic University of Bukavu and a diploma in Philosophy from Grand Seminaire Monseigneur Busimba in Goma.

In his dissertation for his Biomedical Science degree, Dr. Sebisaho examined the impact of the Rwandan refugee influx in 1994 on the Congolese health care system in providing vaccinations for children. Dr. Sebisaho was President and Medical Supervisor of the community of Sant’egidio in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where he supervised humanitarian aid to displaced populations due to the 2001 volcanic eruption in Goma (DR Congo).