Inflammation and stories on Democratic Republic of the Congo

Acute Hunger in the DRCAbout one in three people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) suffers from acute hunger, warns both the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). A WFP representative within the DRC states that the extent of food insecurity in the country is “staggering.” Armed conflict in the east, COVID-19 and economic decline are all contributing factors to the prevalence of acute hunger in the DRC.

March 2021 IPC Snapshot

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification has released a snapshot of the state of acute food insecurity in the DRC as of March 2021. The snapshot estimates that about 27.3 million people living in the DRC are suffering from crisis levels (IPC Phase 3 or higher) of acute food insecurity. The IPC scale ranges from acceptable (IPC Phase 1) to catastrophe or famine (IPC Phase 5). Between August and December 2021, the snapshot projects that roughly 26.2 million will be in high acute food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4). Furthermore, more than 5.6 million of these people will experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity.

Organizations Provide Assistance

There are approximately 5.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) living within the DRC as a result of an ongoing armed conflict. The conflict in the eastern DRC consists of roughly 120 different armed groups, each displacing people and preventing access to workable fields. The DRC has 80 million hectares of farmable land, of which, only 10% is currently being used. The farmable land in the DRC has the potential to feed more than two billion people.

Organizations like the WFP and the FAO are both working in the DRC to help the vulnerable populations suffering from food insecurity. The WFP is working in the seven most populated provinces affected by the ongoing conflict. Furthermore, the WFP has been working with other organizations like the FAO to provide an emergency response by aiding farmers in improving their self-sufficiency, yield and resilience to shock. The WFP also addressed malnutrition by providing specialized food to children under the age of 5 and pregnant and nursing mothers.

Other programs include providing meals to students to encourage school attendance, empowering women and rebuilding local infrastructure to decrease vulnerability to disease and conflict. The FAO has been working to restore agriculture-based livelihoods and diversify local agriculture by training farmers, providing livestock and teaching sustainable farming techniques.

The Future of the DRC

Armed conflict and erratic rainfall coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have deteriorated the already difficult situation in the DRC. The number of people suffering from crisis level or higher acute food insecurity has risen from 21.8 million between July and December 2020 to 27.3 million people in the first half of 2021. The global humanitarian response to the ongoing crisis of acute hunger in the DRC has focused on strengthening agriculture in the country and combating malnutrition. The FAO is requesting $65 million in its 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan to continue supporting the Congolese people during their time of crisis. Continued humanitarian support is crucial to stabilizing the situation and ending acute hunger in the DRC.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

The World Bank's Projects Adapt to COVID-19The World Bank is a global financial institution that provides funding to low- and middle-income nations to aid in development. Since its inception, the World Bank has always been focused on sustainable solutions to the problems facing developing nations. For many countries and organizations, COVID-19 has been a massive unexpected barrier to the progress being made. Through 2020 and into 2021, the World Bank has had to adapt its existing projects and new endeavors to operate with COVID-19 in mind.

The Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project

The Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project, or GALOP, was established in 2019 with the goal of improving the quality of low-performing schools in Ghana and ultimately improving education equity. GALOP operates in 10,000 schools in disadvantaged areas, implementing measures to improve the quality of education and the presence of accountability. The project benefits more than two million students and tens of thousands of teachers.

Since COVID-19 struck and majorly disrupted education systems and school attendance, the project has been adjusted to remain as effective as possible. Notably, it has expanded its benefits for children with disabilities, for whom education is less accessible than ever. The World Bank is responding to the consequences of COVID-19 on the school system to provide more appropriate aid where necessary.

The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project

The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project, which has been active since 2014, is also being adapted to compensate for the impacts of the pandemic. The goal of this project is to empower African women and increase their accessibility to health services. A substantial part of its mission involves education and raising awareness about female empowerment.

The World Bank has been presented with a significantly heightened issue compared to when it took this project on more than five years ago. Domestic violence rates have increased, girls’ enrollment in schools is lower than ever and much progress in the way of female empowerment seems to have been undone by the pandemic. In response to this, the World Bank project has shifted its focus primarily to young girls and women at risk of violence. These are two groups whose hardships are most exacerbated by COVID-19. The World Bank recognizes that and has adjusted its actions to prioritize those most at-risk.

New Projects

In addition to revising and expanding existing projects, the World Bank has taken on many new projects specifically to help relieve the consequences of COVID-19. The organization has played a large role in providing vaccine accessibility to developing countries and has provided significant funding for its member nations to assist in mitigation and COVID-19 relief efforts.

Some projects, like Building Back Better, were created to provide support for impoverished communities so that they cannot only recover from the global health crisis but to maintain the progress made prior to it. Building Back Better focuses on implementing solutions that are sustainable and will be functional long-term within developing nations.

Other projects, like the Kinshasa Multisector Development and Urban Resilience Project, known as Kin Elenda, focus on problems that existed prior to COVID-19 but have been exacerbated by the crisis. In particular, Kin Elenda targets accessibility issues present in urban neighborhoods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is providing solutions that are rooted in resilience and introducing equity to these urban areas.

In an April 2021 conference, India’s Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman urged the World Bank to continue funding at this level, which is considered a “crisis response.” It is clear that the organization’s targeted efforts are providing genuine relief during this crisis, and the countries impacted would benefit from the continuation of these efforts.

The World Bank is dedicated to ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. While the global crises presented by COVID-19 have exacerbated many of the issues that contribute to poverty, the international organization has proved that it will continue to fight for its mission. The World Bank’s success in fighting the pandemic has presented evidence of poverty solutions that are both sustainable and adaptable.

– Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Uganda and Universal Basic Income
Uganda is a southeastern African country neighboring Lake Victoria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. Its population sits below 50 million people and although it has been one of the poorest countries in the world as of 2012, the U.N. determined that it made enormous leaps in eradicating poverty thanks to ambitious ideas and thoughtful programs. For example, Eight, a Belgian pilot project, highlighted the effectiveness of universal basic income (UBI) in places where extreme poverty is a problem. The Borgen Project spoke with Eight, which enacted its first program in 2017 and showed the rest of the world just what Uganda and universal basic income might mean to the fight against global poverty.

How Eight Began

Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens founded Eight in 2015 after finding poverty in their travels hard to swallow. “We see a lot of inequality and that is so unfair. A lot of people think poverty is a character problem, but it’s a money problem.” That unfairness inspired them to develop actionable solutions and experiments. In this case, they launched a basic income pilot program in Busibi, a remote village, in 2017. The idea was simple; give every inhabitant (about 150 people) 16 euros per month and children 8 euros per month. with no strings attached. The money would transfer to mobile bank accounts that the people of Busibi could access by telephone.

While some might believe this to be a futile attempt at utopia, the academic literature supports this kind of unburdened cash transfer system as a means of raising communities out of poverty. The Borgen Project has profiled universal basic income programs in the U.K., India, Iran, Kashmir and other places. All this research leads to one conclusion: when people receive money and freedom of choice, they make remarkably astute decisions. As co-founder Steven Janssens said in his interview with The Borgen Project, “people deserve to be trusted.” Likely because of the freedom and dignity it allows, UBI yields remarkable results in lifting people out of poverty. Without mandates, universal basic income restores agency and allows people the opportunity to insist on what is right for themselves.

What it Became

Eight’s pilot program took place over the course of two years from 2017 to 2019 and immediately showed the work ethic of the villagers. Inhabitants built businesses and sent kids who would otherwise be working to school. Maarten Goethals noted that “Shops started up in the village and a new dynamism arose.” Free money worked, as Rutger Bregman said in his 2014 book “Utopia for Realists.” It turns out that eradicating global poverty is much easier than many think tanks make it out to be.

Ortrud Lebmann, chair of labor relations at Helmut Schmidt University, conducted landmark research about those who live in poverty and their “restricted opportunity to choose among different ways of life.” His research, in essence, confirms what Eight intended to study. The Eight pilot project proved just how necessary and effective freedom of options are for those with inadequate resources. Janssens noted how bizarre of a concept UBI was to many in Uganda and elsewhere. “The people of Busibi reacted with a kind of disbelief… That they would receive money without conditions. Aid is always project-oriented.” By lifting the onus of conditions, the environment improved.

The Results

After two years, the data appears irrefutable. Most people in the group spent around 50% of their money on food, investments, clothes, health and education. Self-reported happiness improved by 80%. Only 50% of children in the village went to school before the unconditional cash transfers began compared with 94.7% after. Twenty businesses populated the town compared to the two that stood before the program. All markers of poverty declined with the advent of cash and choice.

Eight now plans to bring its ambitious idea that began with Uganda and universal basic income to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “EIGHT wants to find out if the people from the villages close to a mine can be given more choices.” The question is not only if it will work (the evidence suggests it will) but how it might work in a place where children work in mines and risk their wellbeing for a dangerous but lucrative practice. Will unconditional cash transfers facilitate less child labor in these mines? Previous experiments tend to predict just such an outcome.

For now, there is a film about Goethals and Jansens’s project entitled “Crazy Money,” set to debut later in 2021. What Eight did with Uganda and universal basic income was nothing short of revelatory. Although UBI is not new, this is further proof it represents an actionable solution against global poverty. Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens provided more evidence for choice, dignity and compassion for those who live in poverty.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Chakabars ClarkeEntrepreneur Chakabars Clarke runs an uplifting and particularly active Instagram feed based in Ghana. His account @chakabars produces content on pan-Africanism, spirituality and education, millennial humor and vegan lifestyle. His content also includes his own first-hand contributions to improving the lives of under-resourced global communities. Although one million Instagram users follow his posts, Clarke asserts that his mission is not about fame or money, and, the sustainable changes he is making prove so. In an interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET), he maintained that his primary objective in creating a media presence was to achieve social justice. Clarke stated, “My overall goal is to try and create as many economies based on abundance, rather than economies that are based on scarcity.” He says further, “I want to get back to us not just trying to build a large Instagram following or building a big business to make money but, rather, build the future of humans.”

5 Successes of Influencer-Activist Chakabars Clarke

  1. Spartanfam. Clarke started Spartanfam after he served four years of active military duty in Iraq. The fitness program aims to promote bodyweight training that gets you fit without the use of expensive equipment. Similar to the content on Clarke’s Instagram account, the site promotes a 100% plant-based lifestyle.
  2. IHeartAfrica. IHeartAfrica is an organization created by Clarke in 2016. Its work is “centered on the promotion of holistic self-sustainable development that creates an environment that is optimal in establishing a thriving community.” IHeartAfrica currently works with schools, orphanages, medical clinics and voluntary organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica and Ghana. The organization raises funds that go toward sustainable construction and medical supplies as well as educational, recreational and vocational programs and materials.
  3. Building an Ecovillage. One of Clarke’s projects in progress is the construction of an ecovillage for orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in inadequate conditions in orphanages. On the fundraising page for the ecovillage, Clarke describes how the project was born out of leftover funds raised by IHeartAfrica. He also explains that he bought six acres of land for an ecovillage that will house children from an orphanage and people in the surrounding area.  He states that the orphaned children will eventually inherit the land and the village. Clarke is consistent in his transparency with the allocation of his projects’ funds.
  4. The 2019 Global Good Award. Clarke won BET’s Global Good Award in 2019. The nomination is a recognition of “public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community.” The award is a major achievement for Clarke as it puts him among the ranks of celebrities such as Akon who won the award in 2017.
  5. Fruits n’ Rootz. Clarke started Fruits n’ Rootz with the aim of delivering healthy produce while creating funds for his volunteer projects. The company sources high-quality, sustainably harvested, natural products. Most of the items sold on the online shop are fruits, although, sea mosses and detox teas are also for sale at fruitsnrootz.com. The company also provides nutritional education such as the best fruits for women’s health and the benefits of sea moss. A share of 20% of the company’s profits goes toward IHeartAfrica’s actionable causes.

Clarke’s various contributions and entrepreneurial projects show that he is not just about making a name for himself. Clarke is committed to safeguarding the future of low-income and historically neglected people across the globe. By working to preserve schools and orphanages, build medical centers and improve the lives of people in low-income communities in Africa and elsewhere, Chakabars Clarke proves that being an activist is so much more than just having an online presence.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate Reduction
The World Bank published an analysis in 2019 of the 15 countries with the greatest poverty rate reduction from 1999-2015. Of those 15 countries, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and The Kyrgyz Republic were the most successful in reducing poverty. While some of these five countries are continuing to reduce their poverty levels, others have recently faced hardships, stagnating their ability to eradicate poverty.

5 Leaders in Poverty Reduction

  1. Tanzania: Tanzania saw a poverty rate reduction of 3.2% from 2000-2011. Moreover, its poverty rate is continuing to reduce as from 2007-2018, the poverty rate fell from 34.4% to 26.4%, and the extreme poverty rate fell from 11.7% to 8%. However, the wealth gap increased during that same time period, with the Gini coefficient rising from 38.5 to 39.5. This uptick in the wealth gap may be due to the fact that education and sanitation have become more accessible in cities but not rural areas. However, despite this increase, Tanzania is persisting in reducing its levels of poverty.
  2. Tajikistan: Tajikistan reduced its poverty levels by 3.1% from 1999-2015. Poverty rates fluctuate in Tajikistan depending on job availability and remittance. However, the poverty rate mostly remains on the decline in Tajikistan, albeit it is slower than in the past. From 2012-2017, the poverty rate fell by 7.5%, but now it is decreasing about 1% per year on average. The poverty rate has been decreasing slower because the remittances that Tajikistan has received have lessened over the past few years. Additionally, COVID-19 has negatively affected the economy, causing more food insecurity. Fortunately, expectations have determined that the country will recover quickly from this downfall.
  3. Chad: Chad experienced a reduced poverty rate of 3.1% from 2003-2011. The projected number of impoverished people in Chad increased from 4.7 million to 6.3 million from 2011-2019. Additionally, Chad ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. The good news is that many nonprofit organizations are working to help decrease the poverty rate in Chad. The World Food Bank has established many support systems and has helped 1.4 million people so far. The International Development Association (IDA) improved learning conditions for over 300,000 elementary school children from 2013-2018. The IDA also provided health support for over 50,000 people from 2014-2018. These are only two examples of organizations that work to improve the quality of life of the people and reduce the poverty rate in Chad.
  4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The DRC reduced its poverty rate by 2.7% from 2005-2011. It remains low on the Human Captial Index with 72% of people living in extreme poverty. Yet, like in Chad, there are many nonprofits working to help reduce the poverty rate in the DRC. For example, the IDA helped 1.8 million people receive health services and provided work support programs for 1 million displaced people through 2018. The United Nations Capital Development Fund has been working in the DRC since 2004 and helps create a more financially inclusive environment. Even though the country has a long way to go, the hard work of these organizations shows a promising future for the DRC.
  5. The Kyrgyz Republic: The Kyrgyz Republic reduced its poverty levels by 2.6% from 2000-2015. The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy has experienced fluctuations since 2010 and remains vulnerable. Many citizens live close to the poverty line. However, the poverty rate in rural areas continues to steadily decline. Like Tajikistan, COVID-19 negatively impacted The Kyrgyz Republic’s economy. On July 30, 2020, the World Bank decided to finance three projects that will help “mitigate the unprecedented health, economic and social challenges caused by the…pandemic.” One of these initiatives includes direct financial help for up to 200,000 poor families. Overall, the Kyrgyz Republic has prevailed in reducing the poverty rate and increasing access to healthcare and education in the past 20 years.

Looking Forward

While some countries have regressed in poverty rate reduction, others continue to decrease poverty rates. However, good news exists even for countries with increased poverty rates. Nonprofits work to provide relief, aid and policy changes that help those in poverty.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of CongoCOVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has devastating effects, infecting over 27,000 individuals by March 2021 and putting intense pressure on the healthcare system. The DRC has already been dealing with cholera, ebola and a measles epidemic in 2019, leaving the healthcare system particularly vulnerable.

The COVID-19 Situation in the DRC

While this nation has faced many struggles since the rapid spread of the virus in the summer of 2020, big data provides hope for a more organized and effective response to COVID-19 in the DRC. The DRC has not had a census since 1984 and since then, the nation has split its 11 provinces into 26, leading to an even more disjointed understanding of the DRC’s population. Big data via mobile companies could allow for updated population estimates and health infrastructure data leading to a better COVID-19 response.
UNICEF has improved mass media communication in the DRC and trained nearly 100 media professionals on warning signs of COVID-19 to allow professionals to inform the public on COVID-19 better. Since these efforts, 25 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were reached by mass media to prevent the spread of the disease.

How Technology Can Help Slow the Spread

Ongoing advancements in big data and the availability of technology worldwide have allowed many countries to make better forecasts for the spread of COVID-19. These advancements allowed the DRC’s government to make more information-based policy decisions.
Oxford University’s Big Data Institute has studied the benefits of using mobile apps to provide data on a nation’s citizens that would allow for a more efficient and succinct response to COVID-19. Nearly half of COVID-19 transmissions happen before symptoms arise, which means mobile apps that notify individuals who may have been exposed provide a quick and widespread response to stopping the spread.

Mobile Big Data and the DRC’s Fight Against COVID-19

In May 2020, mobile operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo, namely Africell, Organe and Vodacom, agreed to collaborate to use their big data analytics to provide information for the government’s response to COVID-19. This agreement led to a nationwide dashboard that allows health authorities to track mobility among the population and across different health districts to trace the spread of the virus.

Since the introduction of COVID-19 in the DRC, the virus has spread quickly from the central, populated districts to other provinces. Utilizing big mobile data to track this spread will allow better informed policy choices from the government. Analysis of this data has also led to updated information on the stock levels and needs of health care facilities in the DRC.
An example of the utilization of this big data is when the DRC’s government took confinement measures and prevented travel to the province of Gombe. Big mobile data companies in the DRC have provided the government with call detail records (CDRs) that have shown a 70% drop in travelers to Gombe after implementing the rules, showing high adherence to government recommendations.

Future Measures to Use Technology to Stop the Spread

Big mobile providers are working with the Ministry of Health to predict hotspots for COVID-19 in the DRC in the future using data that tracks population mobility. Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, big data analytics provide hope for more efficient government policies and a strengthened relationship between healthcare facilities and the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

– Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways the DRC Can Slow the Spread of COVID-19
On November 18, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) and government officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced the end of the latest Ebola outbreak. This outbreak started in June 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and was the 11th Ebola outbreak in the DRC since the first recognition of the disease in 1976. “It wasn’t easy, but we’ve done it!” tweeted the Regional Director of WHO, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. The DRC, one of the most impoverished countries on earth, emerged from the wake of the most recent Ebola outbreak after learning some important lessons. The information gained from this occurrence has offered insight that can help slow the spread of COVID-19 on a global scale.

At the start of the pandemic, the country’s COVID-19 mortality rate was 10%. In just six months, that rate decreased to 2.5%. Here are the five key components the DRC discovered are vital in its attempt to slow the spread of a viral outbreak.

5 Ways the DRC Can Slow the Spread of COVID-19

  1. Community engagement is of extreme importance in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The Ebola aid response initially failed due to significant mistrust from people in the communities that needed help. The continuous conflict between the militant groups and the government made it difficult to earn the trust of DRC citizens. As the outbreak grew, aid workers realized that spending more time directly engaging with individuals in affected communities made them more trusting. Workers built confidence by increasing the community’s knowledge of the virus. Engagement from spiritual advisors, educators and other community leaders in addition to politicians and law enforcement is essential. These varying perspectives are useful in soothing fears, offering guidance and rooting out rumors and misinformation.
  2. Involving social scientists as soon as possible is paramount. Epidemics often sow seeds of resentment and suspicion within communities. As a result, these “seeds” often impede recovery and prevention efforts if allowed to grow. When scientists use their experience to analyze community structures, they can quickly identify areas of distrust. Their unique perspective on human behavior and cultural practices can then assist in developing solutions that are acceptable to all. Communities are then more likely to take ownership and come together to work towards strategies to slow the spread of the disease.
  3. Prioritizing the patient experience is mutually beneficial to the infected person as well as those providing the treatment. Stigma often follows survivors of Ebola with families and communities, with others expressing fear toward individuals even after they have recovered. Those recovering from COVID-19 often experience similar shaming. Conditions that result in trauma or embarrassment for the patient provide those who the virus may infect with a reason to ignore their treatment options. Performing care with respect, empathy and dignity offers a positive experience. This increases the chance that newly infected patients will seek help. Outreach in the form of education can reduce a community’s discontent. A better grasp of how the virus works and the recovery process provides understanding and relief.
  4. Deploying familial leaders for monitoring, early case detection, contact tracing, quarantine and follow-up is beneficial. As many see the leader in their family as a protector, this role is uniquely advantageous in increasing understanding of the disease itself. Family leaders are also in good positions to be the ones who take on the role of bolstering understanding of personal and family precautionary measures. An entire household working to slow the spread of COVID-19 can have a greater impact than individual effort.
  5. Taking action to ensure swift turnaround times for labs is important. One priority during the Ebola outbreak was getting lab results back to patients as quickly as possible. Primarily, this is to relieve any existing anxieties for the patient and the patient’s family. Additionally, quick turnaround allows for quick, public safety protocol execution to prevent the further spread of disease. This strategy is equally effective in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Even with one lethal and viral outbreak in the DRC finished, COVID-19 remains a very real and deadly threat. Through surviving Ebola, the DRC government grasped valuable, global lessons. The DRC government is using the tactics that proved successful in defeating the Ebola virus outbreak to slow the spread of COVID-19. As world leaders plan and devise strategies, the DRC’s successes serve as experienced examples in this globally critical situation with little precedent.

– Rachel Proctor
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Dangers of non-vaccination
Polio survivor, Richard Elaka, 60, has made it his mission for the last 20 years to educate his community in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on the benefits of vaccinating. At 7 years old, Mr. Elaka suddenly lost the use of his legs. His family initially believed this was the result of a curse that his uncle put on him. It was not until later that Richard understood that the poliomyelitis virus had infected him due to him not having received the polio vaccine. Unable to walk without the use of crutches from the age of 7, Mr. Elaka has not taken his survival for granted. He spends his free time doing community outreach. He roams the streets attempting to teach his neighbors about the dangers of non-vaccination.

The Under-Vaccination Problem in the DRC

Only 35% of children in the DRC, between the ages of 12-23 months, have complete vaccination records by the time they turn 1 year old. The COVID-19 pandemic has perpetuated this issue; the DRC has steadily watched vaccination numbers decline since the start of the pandemic. The primary reasons for the declining numbers are:

  1. Vaccinators lacking the personal protective equipment required for dispensing injections.
  2. Parental concerns of exposure to COVID-19 when traveling to vaccination facilities.
  3. Insufficient funds to buy the vaccines.
  4. Conflict and insecurity.

Number three on this list is one of the biggest barriers the DRC has faced.

The Plan

The DRC’s government is working to remedy the issue of under vaccination. The dangers of non-vaccination, particularly within the population of a developing country like the DRC, are a very real and present danger. In June 2020, the DRC  doubled the immunization funding budget it had in 2019. In fact, about $16.4 million went towards the purchase of vaccines.

Along with the financing that UNICEF contributed, the money that the DRC government provided has made it possible for the Emergency Plan for Revitalization of Routine Immunizations’ work in the DRC to continue. Some formally know the Emergency Plan for Revitalization of Routine Immunizations as The Mashako Plan, named for the late DRC Minister of Health Professor, Leonard Mashako Mamba. Its creation in 2018 was a direct response to the issue of incomplete immunizations. Initiated with the hope of targeting several under-vaccinated areas of the DRC, the Mashako plan implemented five key components in creating a sustainable immunization practice:

  1. Dispensing Immunizations – The 2018 goal was to increase the number of completed vaccination sessions by 20%.
  2. Stockout Reduction – Reduce incidents of local health care centers experiencing stockout by 80%.
  3. Observation and Assessment – Closely monitoring data results of vital factors.
  4. Supervision – Routine inspections of immunization storehouse and vaccine dispensing facilities.
  5. Funding and Strategy – Monthly meetings to discuss finance and implementation.

The Good News

From its inception to 2019, the Mashako Plan has contributed to a 50% increase in completed vaccination sessions. The impact COVID-19 is having on the DRC and its mission to vaccinate has been challenging. In 2020, the DRC contended not only with COVID but with Ebola and measles outbreaks as well. Despite these arduous circumstances, volunteer vaccinators, DRC public health officials and community members, like Richard Elaka, remain undeterred in the commitment to protecting the citizens of the DRC from the dangers of non-vaccination.

– Rachel Proctor
Photo: Flickr

European Union in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest Sub-Saharan country and has the fourth largest population in Africa. Throughout the years, the DRC has been faced with a combination of local, national, and regional tensions. Those tensions were the result of violent conflicts to mass migrations, militias, and profound poverty. These issues have ultimately limited the opportunities for achieving peace and stability in the country. One of the most consistent efforts to improve the country’s conditions comes from the work of the European Union in the DRC.

History of Financial Aid

The history of the European Union in the DRC starts with the first European Development Fund (EDF) of 1958-59. After a ten-year suspension, the cooperation dynamics have been increasing exponentially. For instance, in January of 2002, the National Indicative Program (NIP) was signed under the 8th EDF with a value of 120 million Euros, while the number increased to 205 million Euros the following year.

Between 2001 and 2003, the DRC received a total of 1,868 million Euros from the EU, making the country one of the bloc’s main aid recipients. Most of the money was destined for development efforts (72%), followed by humanitarian aid and cooperation in the areas of politics and security (23.5% and 4.5% respectively).

The EU institutions persistently rank within the three top donors, together with the United States and the United Kingdom, in humanitarian aid for the DRC. Moreover, ECHO Flight is the European Union in the DRC provision for humanitarian air service, especially directed to remote areas lacking a proper road infrastructure.

Ongoing Work

Currently, under the 11th EDF National Initiative Program, the work of the European Union in the DRC designates 620 million Euros for the period of 2014 to 2020 to fund the following sectors:

  1. Health: assisting the Congolese government in the development of a health system that is accessible, efficient, and of good quality

  2. Environment and sustainable agriculture: financing conservation efforts and development through electric accessibility and sustainable agriculture

  3. Governance and rule of law: strengthening policy reforms in spheres such as defense, justice, and security

  4. Transport: contributing to the completion of the key transportation axis, which is a national road of a 150km

The EU has also undertaken three civilian missions and two military ones. This makes the DRC the country with the most Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions. The contributions of one of the military missions, EUFOR RD Congo (requested by the UN in 2006), were crucial for preventing the spread of violence on the eve of celebrating their first democratic elections in more than 40 years while ensuring a peaceful process. Civilian missions tend to focus on strengthening the DRC’s security forces and justice sector. These missions helped result in the creation of the Police Reform Monitoring Committee. They also assisted with the draft of the Congolese National Police’s framework of activities.

New Efforts

More recently, the EU agreed to contribute to policy reform initiatives with 60 million Euros. The aim of this funding is to increase civilians’ trust in the security forces and warranting the rule of law. Its four objectives are:

  • Enhancing the implementation of reforms and police accountability measures

  • Improving the professional level of the police and the criminal justice system

  • Improving human resource management

  • Activating and maintaining community security to restore public confidence

According to Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, “There can be no development and sustainable growth without a more peaceful environment. That is why the European Union is stepping up its support for security, peace, and stability in the DRC”.

Finally, the European Union is providing 19.5 million Euros of humanitarian aid to help the DRC in its fight against COVID-19. The DRC is the most impacted country in the region after Cameroon. The money will help improve access to healthcare and awareness-raising efforts. This will occur while the ECHO flights continue with their regular assistance, especially to those most vulnerable.

Helen Souki

Photo: Flickr