Conjoined twins survive gruelling journey to separation

After surgery, the twins were flown back to VangaImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image caption The family lives in a remote village in western Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa

Conjoined twins born in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo have survived a 15-hour journey on the back of a motorbike to be separated.

They were then flown to the capital, Kinshasa, where they were operated on by a team of volunteer surgeons.

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

The twins are now being monitored.

The babies – Anick and Destin – will return to their village in three weeks. They were born at 37 weeks in August, were joined at the navel, and did not share any internal organs.

Twins Anick and Destin before they were separatedImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image caption Conjoined twin girls Anick and Destin survived their birth before being separated

About one in every 200,000 live births results in conjoined twins and their survival is never certain, especially in remote areas where no medical help is available.

But to the astonishment of doctors, these twins were born naturally in the village of Muzombo, in the west of the African country.

Realising that the babies needed surgery, their parents Claudine Mukhena and Zaiko Munzadi wrapped the babies in a blanket and set off on an epic journey through jungle to their nearest hospital in Vanga.

Without the equipment or experience to carry out the complex separation surgery in the small hospital, doctors transferred them to a hospital in Kinshasa more than 300 miles away.

The twins and family after being flown back to their regionImage copyrightJACKLYN REIERSON, MAF
Image captionAn emergency plane flew the family to the capital city for surgery

To get there, the family was flown by MAT, a humanitarian airline which operates in remote regions, rather than risk another long journey over dangerous roads.

Dr Junior Mudji, who is now caring for them at Vanga Evangelical Hospital, said he was delighted.

“At 37 weeks, conjoined twins born naturally – it’s unheard of,” he said.

“They are doing fine, they sleep well and eat well. In general, they are doing well.

“We will keep them here for three more weeks to be sure everything is normal.”

Dr Mudji believes the operation was the first to separate conjoined twins in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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