The entryway to the showers in an oncology department.

When Kamel Mensari began going regularly to the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre (CPMC) in Algiers to visit a cousin with cancer, he was shocked by the hospital’s unsanitary conditions. Though it is one of the biggest cancer treatment centres in Algeria, Mensari reported that its walls are crumbling and that he saw blood on the floor of the toilets.

"I had to buy her a face mask to help protect her from infections"

Kamel Mensarilives in the Algerian capital Algiers. While his cousin was hospitalised at the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre, he made regular visits to see her.
My cousin was being treated for cancer at the Mustapha Bacha hospital, but the nurses made a mistake and tripled her dosage of chemotherapy. After that, she was transferred to the oncology department at the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre, where she stayed for almost three weeks. Her immune system was incredibly weak and even the smallest microbe or bacteria could worsen her condition considerably. But, despite that, her room was incredibly dirty and there were mosquitoes and cockroaches. She was forced to use toilets and washrooms that were absolutely foul, as the photos show. In order to protect her from infections, I used my own money to buy her a face mask.

The only working fridge on the entire floor was located in my cousin’s room so there were endless comings and goings. She had no peace and quiet and no privacy.

I also had to buy her some medicines that weren’t available at the hospital. Every day, I brought her meals because even the nurses told me that the hospital’s food was revolting.

To think that there are some patients in terminal phases of cancer who end their days in this place… it’s absolutely unacceptable.

Worst of all, however, is that patients sometimes remain on the waiting list for up to six months before being admitted to the cancer ward because it is overcrowded. Some people die before they even get a spot.
In May 2013, about thirty protestors gathered outside the centre to denounce the deplorable conditions. This was at the same time that the Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika travelled to France to be treated at Val-de-Grâce Hospital in Paris, after having a stroke.

In Algeria, more than 20,000 people die of cancer each year without being hospitalised, according to Professor Kamel Bouzid, the head of the oncology service at the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre. On numerous occasions, Bouzid has expressed his frustration about the overcrowding of cancer treatment centres. He has also recommended transferring cancer patients abroad until roughly 20 new planned cancer centres are opened in Algeria.

Problems at Algerian hospitals are frequently decried on social networks. Last June, a father filmed the empty paediatric services unit at El-Mansoura clinic in Constantine, as he was desperately searching for a doctor to treat his sick child.

Algeria’s health system is deteriorating, and yet its budget keeps getting bigger. Spending on the health sector rose from 2 billion euros in 2010 to 3.5 billion euros in 2014. According to Djilali Hadjajd, the president of Transparency International Algeria, the fact that many patients nevertheless face poor treatment is mainly due to corruption.

"Most of the buildings are from the colonial era and were never meant to house so many people"

Lyes Merabet, president of Algeria's National Syndicate for Public Health Practitioners (Syndicat National des Praticiens de la Santé Publique) highlighted a fundamental problem with the "management" of the country’s medical establishments.
These images are really shocking and there is no excuse for what is going on in this centre. Patients suffering from cancer should be treated in a completely sterilised environment. Nevertheless, the competence of the doctors and other medical workers shouldn’t be doubted — it’s just that there’s a real problem with the management of these medical establishments, especially in terms of upkeep and hygiene.

The deterioration in the quality of care offered to these patients is partially due to hospital overcrowding — most of these buildings were built during the colonial era and were meant to house a much smaller number of patients. In the last few years, the government has begun construction on several new hospitals in different cities. One of their biggest projects is a large university hospital in Algiers. I hope that the situation will improve when these new buildings are opened.

Numerous stories told to us by our Observers show that, sadly, the Pierre and Marie Curie Centre is not an isolated case. Our Observers brought to our attention instances of medical staff with poor training and chronic shortages of material in several other medical establishments.

"There are no syringes in the paediatric emergency unit"

Abderrahmane Semmar, a member of "Les Envoyés Spéciaux" (or, ‘The Special Envoys’), a collective of citizen journalists, recently spent 24 hours in the paediatric emergency unit at Hussein Dey Hospital in eastern Algiers.

The resident doctors were helpless in the face of the lack of medical materials, especially syringes and antibiotics. These terrible working conditions push many Algerian doctors to immigrate to other countries. I have many friends in the profession who left to work in Jordan, where the working conditions are far, far better.

All of the photos were taken by Kamel Mensari.