Inflammation and stories on Democratic Republic of the Congo

Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country roughly three times the size of Texas, rich in fertile land, minerals, precious metals and potential for green energy initiatives. Despite this, approximately 72% of Congolese people live in extreme poverty. Located in central Africa, the DRC has experienced decades of dictatorship and civil war after gaining its independence.

The DRC enjoyed a brief respite from tension when its civil war ended in 2003, and in 2019, the nation saw its first peaceful transfer of power since independence. Though these developments are promising, many of the nearly 90 million people who call DRC home do not consistently have a home. Here are some facts about homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are worth knowing.

Understanding Homelessness and Displacement

Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is better understood in terms of displacement. While displaced people may actually have had resources to build a home, they have been forced to move repeatedly, usually suddenly, because of violence or disaster. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that more than five million people are currently internally displaced in the DRC, making up one-tenth of the entire world’s internally displaced people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is second only to Syria in terms of the magnitude of its displacement crisis.

Several factors overlap to contribute to homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Violence by armed groups, ethnic conflicts, natural disasters, joblessness and scarcity of accessible resources all play a significant role in displacement. Any of the more than 120 armed groups operating in the region may clash with one another or the military because of political tensions or illegal mining operations. On the other hand, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, fires, floods and landslides may combine with these conflicts to cause homelessness.

A significant number of the DRC’s homeless people are refugees from other countries. While Congolese people often leave the DRC for other countries, about half a million displaced people in the DRC are actually foreign refugees themselves. They come mainly from Burundi, Rwanda and the Central African Republic. Many of these refugees have fled disaster, violence or instability in their own home countries. Because of this, patterns of displacement are complex, ever-changing and challenging to track.

Homelessness Among Children

Families are especially impacted by these incessant conflicts, and the instability takes a toll on children. Farming families miss planting and harvesting times due to drought or forced flight from their homes. Other displaced people may be exploited for prostitution or child labor. Similarly, some children whose parents die live unattended in the streets. In the capital of Kinshasa alone, there are about 30,000 “street children” who are at risk for assault and exploitation every day.

To combat these obstacles, between 2015 and 2017, the Danish Refugee Council helped 26,000 school-aged Congolese children return to school and trained over 1,000 teachers and volunteers. The organization has also partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR and other NGOs to provide basic necessities to households, as well as counseling services to children who have experienced trauma.

Organizations Making a Difference

Aid organizations, nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations do not always have adequate funding and capacity to protect people from homelessness. Without assistance, homeless people may stay with relatives or a host family; those without that option may resort to living in settlements made up of makeshift structures. Others find shelter in more secure displacement camps, such as UNHCR’s South Ubangi Mole refugee camp in northwestern DRC, which has 15,000 inhabitants.

However, none of these situations is totally secure; armed individuals occasionally pass security checkpoints to assault inhabitants of displacement camps. Limited funding, close living conditions and insufficient sanitation do not allow residents of camps to protect themselves. This makes it easier for communicable illnesses like cholera, Ebola and COVID-19 to spread.

Humanitarian aid organizations and data-gathering agencies, along with local volunteers, lead the charge in helping track and mitigate homelessness and its effects. It is no small task to accurately measure the extent of displacement. The DRC’s massive size, porous borders and challenging geography all add to the challenge of this job.

Although the Congolese government does not have its own mechanism for tracking internal displacement, outside organizations present in the DRC have developed tools to assist. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre uses the latest technology to compile information from organizations and locals to provide an accurate picture of displacement in the region. Its tools bring together research, real-time reports and satellite imaging to assess where the greatest needs currently are. Some other organizations also assisting displaced people in the DRC are USAID and Amnesty International.

Hope for the Homeless

Though the DRC may still have miles to go, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee recently introduced H. Res 531 and H.R. 1191, a simple resolution and bill, respectively, which are aimed at protecting Congolese children. These measures, along with other existing laws, could help create more accountability for foreign entities who allow exploitation and violence that contribute to displacement and homelessness.

At a recent security council meeting, Leila Zerrougui, Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) commended President Tshikesedi’s “reform agenda and improved relations with neighboring countries” as evidence of improvement in the DRC. President Tshikesedi himself seemed optimistic during these talks; he reiterated the gains he has made in securing the country since his election in 2019 and renewing his commitment to securing a brighter future for his people.

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

measles in democratic republic of congoThe Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a measles outbreak in June 2019. Since then, more than 310,000 have been affected by this epidemic. Measles is an extremely contagious and airborne disease that can cause rashes, fevers and coughing. The virus is especially dangerous for children. Most developed countries can combat measles through vaccinations, but developing countries aren’t able to fully eradicate and achieve a herd immunity of a sizeable population majority, leading to constant outbreaks.

How COVID-19 is Affecting the Situation

Due to COVID-19, more than 117 million children could not receive their measles vaccine following the halt of vaccination campaigns. Measles may kill more people in developing countries than COVID-19 if outbreaks continue. At least 6,500 children have already died from measles in the DRC. Most world leaders are focusing on COVID-19 rather than the vaccine-preventable diseases that could potentially wreak havoc on developing nations. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently leading the world in the highest numbers of measles cases. This trend is likely to continue without significant aid and the continuation of vaccination campaigns. The DRC also has an incredibly weak healthcare system, so it greatly relies on NGOs and foreign aid to administer vaccines & life-saving medicines to the country.

Other Diseases in the DRC

In addition to measles, the DRC is currently combating cholera, polio, COVID-19 and Ebola. “On June 1, 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared its eleventh Ebola outbreak.” This is before the tenth outbreak was declared over on June 25, 2020; however, WHO has stated that these two outbreaks are separate. Due to the limited resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this outbreak will be harder to contain than previous outbreaks.

In the past, multiple Ebola outbreaks have drawn more attention than the measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, COVID-19 is drawing more attention than measles. However, all three diseases need to be dealt with alongside the other diseases harming the DRC. During an Ebola outbreak in earlier months, measles was overlooked, which led to a resurgence. Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must receive the attention necessary to combat it. In addition to the disease itself, the DRC is also suffering from malnutrition, food insecurity and economic uncertainty. All of these factors make the population more vulnerable to other diseases, particularly children.

How To Help

The best way to help combat measles in the DRC is to ensure vaccination campaigns can start again. An increase in foreign aid will help the nation reach this goal. The DRC needs to achieve 95% vaccination to recover, but that goal seems incredibly unlikely due to the current COVID-19 panic. With the majority of the world also focused on COVID-19, it is unlikely that the DRC will receive all the international aid they require at this time. An additional $40 million will be needed on top of the $27.6 million received to successfully fight measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Organizations like Doctors Without Borders are continuously working to fight measles outbreaks in DRC. As of June 2020, the organization has succeeded in vaccinating 82,000 children after “three back-to-back campaigns.” Doctors Without Borders cautions the world that measles cannot be ignored even with the current COVID-19 crisis. They are taking extra precautions during this time to reduce the risk of co-infection.

While COVID-19 is an important and urgent issue, it is imperative that leaders continue to send help to those abroad struggling with the fall-outs of poverty whenever possible. Measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one example of how important foreign assistance and vaccination campaigns are in saving lives in developing countries.

– Jacquelyn Burrer
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in the Democratic Republic of the CongoThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is ranked 19th globally for the percentage of girls who are married before they reach their 18th birthday (37%). A 2017 UNICEF study with this data also showed the DRC ranking ninth highest for the absolute number of child brides, at 1.3 million. These figures tell a story beyond girls marrying young — a narrative of recursive poverty and lack of education. But child marriage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can be beaten. In fact, new programs for female education and community engagement are emerging every day to address this issue.

Identifying the Roots of Child Marriage

There are four main drivers of child marriage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: poverty, armed conflict, adolescent pregnancy and cultural traditions.

  • Poverty: As of 2018, 72% of the population of the DRC lived in extreme poverty. The practice of child marriage is a key indicator of poverty in a community. When a family gives a daughter away in marriage, they lower their own expenses. They no longer have to feed, clothe or educate the daughter. In addition, the promise of bride price is a motivating factor behind child marriage in the DRC. Bride price is an old tradition practiced in different areas across Africa. Unlike dowry, bride price entails exchanging money or valuable items from the groom’s family to the bride’s family as a record of their marriage. Historically, bride price helped tie two families together and strengthen the community as a whole. Today, it acts more as legal proof of marriage, used to determine the lineage of children or to secure inheritance. Families perceive the promise of wealth as an incentive for early marriage. For girls, however, the chance of receiving an education after early marriage is slim. As a result, girls who marry before the age of 18 in the DRC are less able to earn an income and to lift themselves, and their families, out of poverty.

  • Armed conflict: According to a study done by the U.N., around 200,000 girls and women have experienced sexual violence in the DRC since 1998. Ongoing military conflicts in the eastern DRC, Rwanda and Uganda are part of the cause of this high number. The continued prevalence of armed conflict has led to some young girls being forced to marry perpetrators of sexual violence.

  • Adolescent Pregnancy: Sexual health and education are not widely practiced in DRC, which leads to a lack of contraception and family planning. Early pregnancies can sometimes result in child marriage, as families hope to secure stability for later life. The cultural expectation that women will marry and become mothers leads to low contraception use, which can also contribute to adolescent pregnancies.

  • Cultural Traditions: Underlying all these drivers of child marriage in the DRC, is the cultural belief that girls are inferior to boys. As a result of internalized gender inequality, the global prevalence of child marriage among boys is one-sixth of that among girls. Accordingly, programs designed to oppose child marriage typically emphasize female empowerment and education. One such organization, Debout Fille, was established in 2005 to “defend and protect the rights of girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Empowering Girls

Debout Fille operates across DRC in many rural and urban communities. The organization is working toward “eliminating violence and harmful practices and achieving universal access to education and sexual and reproductive health.” In South Kivu, a region heavily affected by the conflict between Ugandan and Rwandan rebels, Debout Fille is partnering with Women’s WorldWide Web (W4) to fight the cycle of child marriage. Through new “Digital Learning Clubs and Spaces,” girls and young women are learning about reproductive and sexual health. These clubs help girls establish “Girls’ Parliaments,” through which they can engage in community decision-making and political advocacy to oppose child marriage. “Parents’ Schools” are also working to engage and educate parents. Debout Fille is currently training 1,200 girls and local community members. 

About 37% of girls in the DRC marry before reaching their 18th birthday. Poverty, armed conflict, adolescent pregnancy and cultural traditions can all be causes of child marriage. Organizations like Debout Fille are working to decrease child marriage through things like sexual and reproductive health education. While this is just one solution, it is an important step toward using education to end child marriage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Elizabeth Price
Photo: Pixabay

healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the CongoOne of the biggest challenges facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo is its healthcare system. The country faces many barriers to adequate healthcare, such as low funding, systematic and structural difficulties, poverty, proper treatment and testing, education and more. However, many organizations worldwide are working to improve healthcare in the country through direct aid and legislation.

The Problems with the Healthcare System in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The healthcare system lacks investment and funding. As a result, it is difficult for the country to combat prevalent healthcare issues, such as infectious diseases. It also provides obstacles to combatting more pervasive issues such as infant and mother mortality rates. According to the CDC, the top causes of death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are “malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and tuberculosis.”

Many of these issues are preventable. However, as of 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo only dedicated 3.98% of GDP to healthcare. In comparison, the U.S. dedicated 17.06% to healthcare. Healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo requires consistent funding and resources to ameliorate and reduce these problems; without increased investment, these healthcare problems will only continue to persist.

Furthermore, the WHO states that another complication facing the healthcare system is a lack of resources. The healthcare facilities that are up and running are “often poorly maintained” and difficult to access. Moreover, many communities throughout the country are isolated and spread out. For example, the WHO states that 80% of cholera patients are displaced throughout the country. With these patients vastly spread out, it becomes harder and harder to treat and reduce the impact of cholera. Additionally, traveling from one area to the next present difficulties because of damaged and underdeveloped roads, which introduces another barrier to proper treatment.

Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult for citizens to even obtain access to healthcare clinics and/or hospitals. Factoring in violence and displacement, lack of food and healthy drinking water and extreme poverty conditions, healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s is in dire need of support and aid.

What Organizations are Doing to Help

With that said, what are other countries and organizations doing to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo? There are many organizations around the world working to reduce global poverty and improve healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other struggling countries. The focus herein are direct, firsthand efforts from organizations such as USAID, the CDC and WHO.

  • The WHO is actively trying to obtain accurate information about population and health in order to properly provide solutions for certain problems. For example, the WHO seeks to obtain information about issues, such as infant mortality rate and the necessary vaccines. Then, they modernize this information by implementing new technology and software to ensure that the data is upkept, accurate and transformative.
  • USAID is training local citizens and communities on proper healthcare treatment and issues. USAID helps these citizens utilize “locally available resources” to treat the pervasive health issues specific to the country. Additionally, USAID also seeks to increase education by providing scholarships to people to pursue comprehensive medical education. USAID also strives to increase funding and investment for healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The CDC has sent more than two million testing kits and thousands of vaccines/treatments to combat a multitude of issues such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, influenza and infections. Additionally, they have also increased the number of healthcare clinics and other testing and treatment sites across the country. These sites now include five new “sentinel sites for influenza and other infections”.

Moving Forward

Furthermore, advocacy organizations push federal legislation focused on reducing poverty and improving healthcare systems across the world. Equally important, these continual and consistent efforts prioritize allocation of U.S. foreign aid towards these economically struggling countries.

Overall, healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, underfunded for many years, still requires intense rebuilding and change. However, many organizations across the world are understanding these healthcare issues and taking action to help. While much more progress must occur in order to ensure a stable, successful healthcare system, the progress that is currently underway should not be overlooked.

– Sophia McWilliams 
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in the Congo
At the beginning of the 1990s through the early 2000s, the contraction and subsequent testing for HIV increased significantly in Africa. Within this time period, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that nearly 85% of Africans were HIV-positive. More recently, HIV numbers in Africa have reduced with a 38% drop in eastern and southern Africa since 2010. While Africa is getting a handle on HIV, tuberculosis is prevalent. It affects the entire African continent, but cases of tuberculosis in the Congo are the most significant.

Tuberculosis hit African nations forcefully, debilitating the economy, altering sociality and increasing mortality rates. In 2016, estimates determined that 417,000 Africans died due to the disease. This number constituted 25% of all tuberculosis cases present in the world at the time. Of the African deaths in 2016, 321 of them occurred in the DRC, which had one of the highest rates of TB in all of Africa during that time.

Although many have worked to combat TB and HIV within the DRC, the country is still suffering from preventable diseases. With internet access alone, individuals may support groups and companies who are already battling tuberculosis in the Congo and globally.

Important Organizations

The Global Fund is a group that has combated drug-resistant TB through “antimicrobial-resistant superbugs.”  Over the last 20 years, funding to find a cure for this type of tuberculosis has treated and saved 5 million people. Yet, its founder stated that “with more funding triple that number could have been saved.” He advised all to support The Global Fund by donating to its research on drug-resistant TB and by signing petitions to raise awareness.

Starting in 2011, the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and USAID funded the Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC – CIH) to educate people about the symptoms of tuberculosis in the Congo. This program also prepared healthcare professionals in ways to quickly identify and treat TB. Because of the efforts of this program, the detection rate for TB has raised from 12% to 86%. This program still needs support today, as funding is low and publicity has been scarce. Raising one’s voice in support of such a cause will only benefit the program and save more lives. Ciza Silva Mukabaha, a supporter of the MSH and the DRC – CIH called this program a “starting point” for change. He stated that, with more support from others, change is inevitable.

How to End Tuberculosis in the Congo

The End Tuberculosis Now Act recently entered Congress. Individuals in the United States can email or call their representatives and advocate to provide U.S.-government aid to combat multidrug-resistant TB and “support the fight to end tuberculosis” everywhere.

People can also aid the situation by staying informed and supporting local groups who are raising funds to combat TB. In 2018, healthcare worker Virginia Benhard started a personal fundraiser to fight tuberculosis in the Congo. She told The Borgen Project that the cause originally attracted her because of her visit to the Congo as a healthcare worker. She realized that community members consuming contaminated milk and meat caused them to contract tuberculosis. Since TB is an airborne illness, those who had tuberculosis would process the meats and then sell them, causing the infection rates to increase dramatically. Virginia “saw a need and responded,” and through local support she was able to raise over $1,000. She donated the proceeds for the building of a milk pasteurization factory in Kinshasa as well as a meat processing factory.

While this disease still rages on, there is much that individuals can do to help. One can sign a petition, donate, speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves and help those who cannot help themselves. Through small and simple acts, tuberculosis in the Congo should decrease.

Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in DRCThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nation in Central Africa with a population of nearly 80 million people, the vast majority of whom live below the global poverty line. While statistics are hard to come by due to the nature of the DRC, there are estimates that nearly 80% of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. The DRC consistently ranks as one of the world’s poorest, least stable and most underdeveloped countries.

How Has This Happened?

The DRC’s current poverty and instability are rooted in its decades-long history of violence, mismanagement and corruption. This dates back to the colonial era when millions died due to the abuses committed by the Belgian colonial administration. Immediately after declaring independence from Belgium, the so-called Congo Crisis caused more woes for the nation. Even their independence would not stop interference from Europe.

Mobutu Sese Seko took power after the Congo Crisis. He made the country into a one-party dictatorship with widespread corruption, funneling money out of the DRC, and into his own inner circle. Poverty in the DRC grew significantly worse as Seko and his inner circle grew wealthier. His regime was kept afloat by his cult of personality and Cold War foreign aid, both of which dried up in the 1990s. This “drying up” resulted in two devastating wars, both of which increased poverty in the DRC.

The Longevity of Poverty in the DRC

The country began reconstruction in the mid-2000s, in an effort to tackle the growing poverty following the Congo Wars. Despite poverty reductions in some areas of the country – particularly urban ones – recovery efforts did not reduce the overall poverty levels in the country between 2005 and 2012. Roughly two-thirds of the population of the DRC remained in poverty.

Today the DRC is one of the world’s poorest nations, with stunted economic growth and poor development. According to the World Bank, poverty in the DRC is so severe that roughly half of children grow up malnourished, with most lacking access to education. The longevity of this poverty has resulted in a scarcity of drinking water and limited access to proper sanitation. These conditions are present even more often in rural areas. The present COVID-19 epidemic has only made the situation in the DRC more hazardous, especially for those in poverty.

NGO Work in the DRC

While poverty in the DRC may seem insurmountable, there are hundreds of nonprofit agencies working to help in the region. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, or CARE, is a nonprofit NGO (non-governmental organization), dedicated to reducing poverty worldwide. They work alongside the Congolese government to provide aid.

With 12.8 million Congolese in need of urgent assistance, NGO work is more important than ever. In a country like the DRC, where poverty is so extreme, the humanitarian actions of CARE have made an important difference. This NGO has provided food security to thousands of people and assisted thousands of women to gain access to economic and health resources.

CARE is one of the hundreds of NGOs operating in the DRC that rely on donations to make a difference. Poverty in the DRC is too massive for any singular NGO to tackle. The combined efforts of multiple groups are needed. When poverty is so widespread, a widespread response is warranted.

Matthew Bado
Photo: Flickr

DRC'S Energy Sector
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a population of 85 million. Of this number, only 9 percent have access to electricity. Decades of corruption and war are two reasons for poor electricity access and economic development in the Central African country. More than 95 percent of the total electricity comes from 2,542 MW (megawatts) of hydroelectric power. However, a potential capacity of up to 100,000 MW of hydroelectric power is in reach thanks to the Congo River. Investors were once disinterested in updating the Inga Dams located on the river. However, some are finally attempting to make use of the DRC’s massive hydroelectric potential. British firm Bboxx and Power Africa, an initiative that USAID launched, are working to expand the DRC’s energy sector to reach millions of Congolese.

The Massive Hydroelectric Power Potential of the Congo River

The rapids and many waterfalls provide the potential for expanding the Congo River’s hydroelectric power. About two million cubic feet of water flows from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second during rainy seasons. This makes the river’s hydroelectric power a viable option to expand the lagging energy sector. Construction on the Inga I and Inga II dams on the Congo River finished in 1972 and 1982, respectively.

Construction on Inga III, however, has halted. Inga III’s establishment could help power 40 percent of Africa. Its hydroelectric power would equate to at least 40,000 MW, with some estimating more than 100,000 MW. The Grand Inga is the name of this $14 billion project. It has had a long history of delays due to foreign investors dropping out of the project for various reasons such as a lack of transparency from former DRC President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. If the development of the Grand Inga completed, the DRC could export power as well. The country could then become a major energy exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Completed Projects in the DRC

Zongo 2 is a hydroelectric plant on the Insiki River that feeds into the Congo River. Chinese company Sinohydro completed the dam in 2018 with the help of assistance through the Howard G. Buffet Foundation. It has a capacity of generating 150 MW and will generate $47 million of income annually. Currently, the DRC’s energy sector uses only about 2,500 MW of hydropower. However, projects such as Zongo 2 have proved that hydropower could benefit the country and surrounding countries in need of power. Zongo 2 might seem to be a small-scale project compared to the Inga III project. However, 150 MW could power more than 100,000 households.

Power Africa is an initiative to provide more than 30,000 MW of clean energy to 60 million homes and businesses. As part of its goal, Power Africa teamed with power company Virunga Sarl to expand hydropower facilities in the DRC. The Virunga region has eight potential hydropower sites. Two of these, the 13.8 MW Matebe and the .38 MW Mtwanga, are operational and located in North Kivu. The Mtwanga plant supports more than 400 jobs in the region. As of 2017, more than 4,000 customers were under Virunga Sarl’s grid. This included small- and medium-sized businesses, homes and social infrastructure. Virunga Sarl is also expanding to the Nyirigonga district of Goma, which has about 20,000 households without power.

The Potential of Congo’s Power Sector

In January 2020, British firm Bboxx signed a memorandum of understanding to bring clean energy to more than 10 million Congolese by 2024. Bboxx has already provided power to more than 200,000 households in the country. Power has transformed lives, granting access to services that were previously unreachable, such as health care and schooling. President Félix Tshisekedi said that his goal is to use “decentralized and renewable energy solutions as a foundation to improve the country’s electrification rate from 9 percent to 30 percent during my presidency.” For perspective, the length of the presidency in the DRC is five years, and Tshisekedi first took office in January 2019. The DRC’s energy sector is growing slowly, but the president’s massive goal could increase growth in the near future.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ebola Survivors
The Ebola epidemic that ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2018 claimed more than 2,250 lives. Doctors and nurses worked vigorously for months to treat patients and stop the spread of the deadly disease. Finally, in early March 2020, the DRC was able to announce that it had discharged its last Ebola patient. After the country’s lengthy battle with the virus, citizens are seeing that the end of the outbreak is finally within reach. With this new horizon in sight, here’s how Ebola survivors in Congo are giving back to their communities.

Interacting with Patients

There are more than 1,000 Ebola survivors in the DRC. These survivors have developed antibodies that can last up to a decade, allowing them protective immunity against Ebola. Essentially, if survivors come into contact with someone infected, they are not at risk of contracting the disease again.

This allows them to interact with sufferers who may feel isolated and alone during their treatment. Members of the Ebola Survivors Association were able to talk with and provide companionship to patients suffering from Ebola without making them feel alienated.

Spreading Awareness One Home at a Time

Members of the Ebola Survivors Association have been serving their community in Beni, a northeastern city in the DRC, by visiting homes to educate families on Ebola prevention strategies. One member, Gemima Landa, goes above and beyond as a way to thank the healthcare team that saved her life when she was infected.

Landa spends her week visiting countless neighborhoods in Beni. She shares her own story to enlighten families on how to stay healthy. She also makes regular visits to health centers to meet with mothers and pregnant women to explain to them how they have a crucial role in protecting their children against the deadly disease. Landa has been able to spread Ebola awareness and share life-saving information with hundreds of Congolese, and she isn’t the only survivor who’s making a difference.

Caring for Orphans of Ebola

With Ebola having taken so many lives across the country, it also left hundreds of children parentless as a result. Fortunately, survivors were quick to volunteer their time to step in and care for these orphans by providing love, attention and other necessities children desperately need during such a difficult time.

UNICEF also stepped in to help by partnering with survivors and opening nurseries close to Ebola treatment facilities. This is so that the caregivers would have a separate space to tend to the children. These nurseries provide daily screenings and checkups. Additionally, children who may have the disease can be cared for by survivors, who don’t have to risk being infected because they have developed an immunity.

There are now more Ebola survivors in the world than ever. The survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have proven how valuable their help can be to impacted communities. If volunteers continue to band together and share their experiences, the world could be on its way to a healthier, Ebola-free future.

Hadley West
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Progress
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced various issues surrounding health care in the past several decades and some have amounted to significant setbacks for the nation. However, the country has seen health care progress in the DRC in recent years and international organizations are looking forward to the future.

Improving Vaccines for Citizens

International partners have been able to pair with the government in the DRC to initiate this health care progress, and the country has been polio-free for four years as a result. The lack of infrastructure and geographical size of the DRC makes it particularly difficult to reach milestones in health care progress. The United States Agency for International Development has been a vital component of health care progress in the DRC serving over 12 million people spanning a multitude of different provinces. The organization has additionally remained committed to providing HIV/AIDS support in 21 concentrated zones. These focused zones are crucial for health care progress in this region.

In addition to the international organizations doing their part to help health care progress in the DRC, the country’s Ministry of Health has been working diligently in recent years to improve vaccines and their means of storage. Keeping vaccines in the appropriate cooling storage containers and fridges has proved especially difficult due to the DRC’s tropical climate. In a 2018 plan, the Ministry of Health aimed to provide immunizations to almost 220,000 children and improve vaccine storage conditions. Partnerships with outside organizations have helped to deliver 5,000 solar-powered fridges specifically intended for vaccine storage and they will distribute more later on.

Progress in Hospital Conditions

One of the first dependable and reliably functional hospitals opened in Kavumu through an initiative called First Light. This hospital garnered a brand new electronic medical records system to make keeping track of patient history astronomically easier than before. The hospital staff received tablets to mobilize the system and expedite the process of patient diagnosis and care. With this technology, the hospital is able to treat nearly three times more patients than it was able to without these resources – originally, doctors were only able to see approximately six or seven patients per week.

The hospital also implemented a motorcycle ambulance program so patients no longer have to walk or have others carry them to emergency care in order to tackle the issue of having no ambulance access in the city. This program utilizes motorcycle sidecars specifically to transport patients, which was a successful method that people originally used in South Africa.

The Future of Health Care in the DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has continuously been an important player in the health care progress of the DRC. It has partnered with non-governmental organizations to deliver medicines and various other resources to hospitals and clinics in areas where people have limited health care access. In the interest of continuing the progression of the country and establishing a functional health care system, WHO also remains dedicated to analyzing and quantifying statistics within the country that gives organizations clues on what they need to do next. These statistics are able to pinpoint issues in specific areas, therefore making it easier for government and international organizations to act, provide aid and implement programs for improvement. The continuation of this data collection will hopefully allow for more health care progress in the future.

There is still a lot to do in the DRC when it comes to health care. There are organizations and efforts dedicated to treating all of the diseases and epidemics that threaten the country’s current health care progress like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and more. Some organizations involved in the nation even specifically focus on the care of mothers and children or improving sanitation conditions.

It will be small, incremental changes over time that will lead to continued health care progress within the region. The country cannot fix everything at once, but the collective efforts and partnerships of international organizations and governmental entities have already dragged the country out of its most difficult struggles with health care and access to health resources. The continuation of these practices will ensure the building and sustainment of a functional and reliable health care system, therefore alleviating the worries of so many citizens within the DRC.

For now, health care progress in the DRC is on track and only time will tell how these small initiatives eventually reform and reshape the country’s health care system entirely.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Developing Countries With Natural Resources
As the planet continues to evolve from the devastating effects of global warming and overproduction of harmful wastes, natural resources necessary for people’s well being are becoming more scarce. With so few natural resources left, these commodities increase in value, thus making them more expensive to attain on the market. Although most of the world is struggling to gain access to such natural resources, some countries are fortunate enough to have a hidden reservoir of natural resources that they can use to their advantage. Here are the top three developing countries with natural resources.

3 Developing Countries With Natural Resources

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still battling many economic and civic issues that emerged out of a series of political conflicts in the 1990s, the country has benefited from its overabundance of natural resources. One can attribute much of its economic growth to the mass export of mineral deposits, those that are particularly in the province of Katanga. Minerals in the region include copper, zinc, cobalt, coal, silver, uranium and platinum. The Congo’s forest is also rich in fish and lumber, but as a result of the abuse of these resources, the government is working to preserve and protect these areas from deforestation. As a result of exporting these vital resources worldwide, especially copper and cobalt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to climb out of its economic recession in 2018. In 2018, the economy grew to 4.1 percent and has been on a steady incline ever since. Despite gaining wealth in exporting such resources, its account deficit widened from 2.9 percent of its GDP in 2017 to 3.9 percent of its GDP in 2018. This was due to the large increase in imports, but with sufficient government programs and community support, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be able to stabilize its economy in the future to gain more economic advantages from exporting its natural resources.
  2. Botswana: Since its independence from Britain in 1966, there were doubts about whether Botswana would be able to sustain itself as an independent country. As a landlocked country with a small agricultural population, droughts that hit the country in the 1960s took a huge toll on beef exports, which at the time was the country’s only means of export. However, its luck began to turn around in 1966 when it discovered the first batch of diamonds in Orapa. The capital expenditure on mines aided the start-up of other sectors, such as construction, financial services and transport. This led to rapid economic growth, lifting wealth prospects to overwhelming heights. As documented, from 1966 to 2014, Botswana’s GDP per capita grew at an average of 5.9 percent a year. These numbers were one of the highest rates of GDP per capita growth that the world saw during that period. A large contributor to the rapid expansion of Botswana’s economy was the export of diamonds. Of course, as a developing country, Botswana still has challenges to overcome. Youth unemployment is as high as 35 percent and more than 13 percent of the population is living off of just $1.90 a day. There are also concerns that its economy has become too reliant on its diamond business. Botswana, as always, has been working to relieve these issues.
  3. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is home to about one-fifth of the world’s petroleum reserves. The petroleum industry takes up approximately 80 percent of its budget revenues, 90 percent of export earnings and 45 percent of the country’s GDP. In addition to the already existing oil fields, Saudi Arabia discovered the Arsan, the AsSayd, the Namlan and the Qamran oilfields along with the Jalamid gas fields in 2010, adding to its economic prosperity. Additionally, Saudia Arabia also has large reserves of a variety of metals including iron, lead, gold and copper. One company called Ma’aden, which has two subsidiaries called Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Co., has operated five gold mines in Saudi Arabia since 1988 and has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold. To gain further investment from these profitable natural resources, Saudia Arabia joined the WTO in 2005, constructed six economically-driven cities in its country and developed social and infrastructural projects between 2010 and 2014 to promote economic prosperity. In terms of maintaining its position as perhaps the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter, it will be able to do just that for many years to come. However, internal conflict and poverty are issues that Saudi Arabia still faces, so much work is still necessary to bring its country into an era of peace and stability.

Overall, developing countries do, to some degree, gain substantial benefits from exporting their natural resources for profit. However, circumstances must align in order for the export of natural resources to benefit them, because the same blessing can very well turn into a negative consequence and be more damaging to their economies.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr