health care in the drc

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is abundant with natural resources and a thriving ecosystem, decades of armed violence have left the nation impoverished. Currently, health care in the DRC suffers from understaffing and underfunding concerns. Moreover, it is only readily available in certain regions of the country. To better understand this issue, here are four facts about health care in the Congo.

  1. Health care exists in a pyramid structure. The DRC government, aided by several NGOs, funds and controls the public health care system in a four-level model. The first level of health care in the DRC is community health centers. These are open for basic treatment and utilizes nurses for care. The next level contains centers where general physicians practice. The third level pertains to regional hospitals, where citizens can receive more specialized treatment. The fourth and highest level is university hospitals. At all levels, appointments are needed to see physicians, and as they also only see clients on certain days of the week, wait times can be long. This prompts patients who require specialist treatment to often see community nurses instead. In addition, USAID currently provides health care services to more than 12 million people in almost 2,000 facilities.
  2. The country lacks health care workers. Health care in the DRC is limited. Statistically, there are only 0.28 doctors and 1.19 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people. Furthermore, access to health care in the Congo’s rural regions is extremely low due to the remote state of many villages. The northern rural areas of the DRC hold less than 3.0% of the nation’s physicians while Brazzaville, the capital and the most heavily populated city, holds 66% of all physicians. This is despite the fact that the capital only holds 37% of the Congolese population.
  3. Health care funding in the DRC, though low, steadily rises. The government of the DRC has made noticeable progress in increasing funds for health care. Between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of the national budget dedicated to health care increased from 7% to 8.5%. While this increase in funding is life-changing for many, it still pales in comparison to the budgets of many other countries. The U.S. currently allocates 17.7% of its GDP toward health care. The DRC, however, is on an upward trajectory. It seeks to reach a target of 10% allocation of the national budget for health care by 2022.
  4. The DRC’s vaccination rates are improving. In 2018, the government of the DRC implemented The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization. The plan aimed to vaccinate more than 200,000 children for life-threatening diseases in a year and a half. While the outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation has been a major setback to the plan, the Mashako Plan, as it is referred to, was responsible for a 50% rise in vaccinations since 2018. This rise occurred in “vulnerable areas” and brings countless more children immunity for potentially deadly diseases.

Despite a lack of health care workers and resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is making steady improvements to its health care system. Efforts to make vaccinations a priority and allocate more of the country’s budget to health care each year already yield results. Organizations such as USAID aid these improvements. The combination of NGOs and the government’s new emphasis on health care provide an optimistic outlook for the future of health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Caroline Bersch

Photo: Unsplash

Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.

Technology

Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Oceania's Isolated Families
The diverse cultures inhabiting the plethora of Oceanic islands in the Pacific Ocean interest people across the world. With over 12 million people combined living on these islands (every country excluding Australia and New Zealand), Oceania has developed small isolated farming communities into cultures that primarily thrive off mineral exports, tourism and agricultural goods. However, these communities are having difficulties providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Getting By

Many typically consider Oceania’s island countries to be poorer nations, dependent on trade from larger nations; yet this sentiment is misleading. Despite some country’s struggling, Melanesia and Micronesia both boast low unemployment rates. Moreover, Fiji has had a 5% unemployment rate as of 2017. However, these rates of unemployment do not tell the full story.

The employment opportunities in these countries vary between the islands, although government employment typically supports most citizens. However, most of the islands have hardly any people employed in the health sector. Isolated island chains, such as the archipelago Kiribati, have smaller islands with no doctors at all. When considering that even the most remote islands have populations exceeding 50, the problem is evident; how will these people receive medical treatment?

A Rooted Problem

This problem generates a cycle for the isolated populations living on the islands. Their unhealthy diets, which primarily consists of imported non-perishables for many islanders, leave them potentially overweight and susceptible to diseases and infections. In worse news, the islands seldom have medicine available. These cultures depend on shipments from larger countries to provide medicine to their people, which usually only come every few months (or not at all).

This creates an ever-lasting problem for the native island populations because they are susceptible to infections, yet have little to no available treatment. When matters reach life-threatening circumstances, some families have no choice but to fly their loved ones off the island to a larger nation, typically New Zealand or Australia, and opt for life-saving surgery. This leads to massive medical bills which many of the poorer families on the islands may never pay off.

The NGO Solution

Community development and government action will spur the islands’ long-term change, but for now, NGOs are lending their efforts to the cause. One organization, called Sea Mercy, approaches island poverty in multiple ways, but one initiative, called FHCC, funds a two-week trip aboard a boat for volunteer physicians of various fields to sail to isolated islands and provide medical care for the people living there.

Many other NGOs, such as Pacific Islands Medical Aid, operate under similar parameters of sending volunteer physicians to the islands, providing health care, sending shipments of medicines and even teaching tactics to local nurses. Even though their stay is limited, these physicians save countless lives annually just by their timely presence. This shows that even with a small amount of available medical professionals, many Pacific Islands would have much less difficulty providing health care to Oceania’s isolated families.

Looking at the Future

While these islands slowly continue to grow, increased job diversification will continue, reaching each independent land, optimistically leading to more health specialists for Oceania’s isolated families. For now, NGOs provide excellent service, saving lives and setting a global standard. With the brilliant cultural diversity of Oceania, preserving the health of these nations should sit as a top global priority.

– Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Guar InitiativeGuar is a bean that South Asian farmers have cultivated for centuries. The grain is the source of guar gum, a key ingredient in many products, ranging from condiments to cosmetics. The Sustainable Guar Initiative was launched in 2015 with the goal of improving the livelihoods and incomes of smallholder guar farmers in the Bikaner region, India.

The Sustainable Guar Initiative

The NGO TechnoServe leads the initiative’s on-the-ground implementation. Solvay, L’Oreal, Henkel and HiChem serve as partners of the program.

The initiative benefits more than 7,000 guar-farming households in Bikaner and operates across 36 villages. TechnoServe has facilitated the launch of a farmer producer company, which helps connect guar farmers with potential buyers. The initiative has built a traceable supply chain, which ensures that everyone from the farmers to their crops’ consumers benefits from the exchange.

Additionally, the initiative features social programs aimed at improving the well-being of farming households. One way the initiative achieves this is by educating the families on growing kitchen gardens.

The Impact of COVID-19

As of July 30, India has seen over 1,600,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Over 40,000 people have tested positive in the state of Rajasthan and, just in the city of Bikaner, over 1,900 contracted the disease.

The Indian government declared a national lockdown on March 25 given the complexity of the situation. Since then, life has changed significantly for smallholder guar farmers in Bikaner and for the people working to support them through the Sustainable Guar Initiative.

TechnoServe’s team in India told The Borgen Project that guar farmers now face various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many farmers can no longer sell their crops, disrupting the incomes they rely on. Lockdown measures also prevent farmers from finding daily wage labor to supplement their incomes. These farmers face a shortage of resources necessary to continue growing guar, like tractors, seeds, laborers and working capital.

These challenges could pose a real threat to Bikaner’s farmers. Though Rajasthan, the state where Bikaner is located, has made progress toward reducing poverty compared to India’s other low-income states, 15% of Rajasthan’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2012. With their incomes stagnating, guar farmers and others throughout the state could fall into (or deeper into) poverty as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

Virtual Engagement

TechnoServe and their partners are working to keep smallholder guar farmers from this unpleasant fate. To do so without spreading the virus, TechnoServe has been engaging virtually with farming households since March 2020.

As the TechnoServe team in India told The Borgen Project, the virtual engagement strategy involves multiple communication methods. The team uses text messages, audio calls, video calls and conference audiovisual calls to communicate with households. Local personnel delivers training through digital platforms. Guar farmers who have both good communication skills and access to smartphones are then tasked with disseminating the training information throughout the villages.

Since May 2020, the TechnoServe team has reached approximately 4,959 male farmers and 1,238 female farmers through phone calls alone. The team reported technical difficulties in the switch to virtual engagement but they have been able to work around these challenges and develop closer ties with the farmers through one-on-one virtual interactions.

The TechnoServe team said that after six months, they will review the efficacy and efficiency of these virtual engagement strategies and their impact. The team will also evaluate the state of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on these two areas of concern, the team will decide whether to continue with virtual engagement through the end of the fiscal year (ending April 2021) or to adjust training methods.

Supporting Farmers

TechnoServe and its partners are also taking larger steps to further the goals of the Sustainable Guar Initiative amid the pandemic. Here are five ways that the initiative is supporting the farmers in the longer term:

  1. Kitchen Gardens: Solvay and L’Oreal established a COVID-19 relief fund. TechnoServe identified over 534 farming families whom the COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable. Tapping into the relief fund, the TechnoServe team has facilitated the distribution of seeds to these families. The families can plant these seeds in kitchen gardens, which provide them with more diverse food options and give them a potential second source of income. Growing food at home also allows women to avoid shopping in crowded markets, where they could become infected with COVID-19.
  2. Farming Equipment: TechnoServe is providing 534 vulnerable farming families with weeding, plowing and hoeing equipment for the approaching monsoon season. This equipment will enable the families to continue growing guar once the season starts.
  3. Protection Against COVID-19: TechnoServe is raising awareness about social distancing and safety protocols while providing the smallholder farmers with ways to protect themselves against the virus. The TechnoServe team said they plan to provide Sanitary Protection Equipment to the 534 vulnerable farming households.
  4. Guar Sales: To help farmers who cannot sell their crops during the pandemic, the partners of the Sustainable Guar Initiative have worked together to help peasants sell their guar above the local market price. This allows farmers to pay for daily expenses and invest in another year of crop cultivation.
  5. Price Floor Implementation: Solvay and L’Oreal proposed implementing a price floor for guar. This means that farmers would be guaranteed a reasonable price for their crops. While the initiative’s partners work out the arrangement’s details, Solvay has been offering a price for the farmers’ guar above the market rate.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do challenges for the smallholder guar farmers of Bikaner. But thanks to TechnoServe and their partners, the Sustainable Guar Initiative persevered through the crisis. The initiative provides needed support for a vulnerable population during unstable times.

Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Argentia's slums, Buenos Aires slums
Argentina is the fifth-highest country with the most COVID-19 cases in South America, with 111,000 recorded cases by mid-July. Moreover, Argentina’s COVID-19 related death toll has nearly doubled since June, surpassing 5,000 cases. Confirmed illnesses continue to be on the rise, with more than half concentrated in the urban hotspot of Buenos Aires City. Approximately 88% of all cases in Argentina are reported from within Buenos Aires, its impoverished slums or its surrounding regions.

COVID-19 in Argentina

While the federal government acted early to contain the virus, including imposing a strict nightly curfew since March, Argentina’s most impoverished remain extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its dire economic consequences. For example, within Buenos Aires’ slums, families often have to sell their homes to afford meals for their families.

Nearly half of all Buenos Aires cases were estimated to be in its slums in late May. In some instances, outbreaks became so alarming that the government would enforce security and fences around these neighborhoods to ensure residents do not spread the virus—at the expense of residents’ increased impoverishment.

Regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Argentina recognized these hardships faced by low-income Argentinians and are currently working to mitigate the health and economic consequences. Here are five NGOs battling COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums.

5 NGOs Fighting COVID-19 in Argentina’s Slums

  1. Chequeado, Spanish for “Checked,” is an online journalism platform that fact-checks public information on Argentinian politics and society. The organization’s website has recently launched a new COVID-19 section to keep citizens informed about the fact-based science behind the virus. The section also covers COVID-19 cases and newly implanted preventative measures. Headlines range from the effectiveness of spraying items with alcohol to the evidence surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 by air. Given the growing number of slum residents having access to the internet due to Argentina’s globalization efforts, this news outlet is accessible to slum residents who would not have access to the information otherwise.
  2. International Organization for Migration, or IOM, works with state and non-state actors to assist migrants through various means, ranging from counter-trafficking to resettlement support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is working with the Argentine Red Cross to provide food and cleaning supplies to vulnerable migrants. The organization is also ensuring all migrants understand COVID-19 precautions, translating public information to French for migrants from Haiti and Senegal, as well as English for migrants from Jamaica.
  3. Pequeños Pasos, translating to “small steps,” aims to bring sustainable development to the lives of Argentina’s impoverished. While the NGO focuses on missions ranging from education to employment, health and nutrition have been at the forefront of its efforts. Given the looming issue of extreme food insecurity due to COVID-19, Pequeños Pasos has launched an emergency food project to feed more than 12,500 people at risk of hunger in Buenos Aires slums. For a year, the NGO will provide monthly emergency food bags to vulnerable families.
  4. Asociación Civil Ingeniería sin Fronteras Argentina is a civil engineering organization that has taken on the project to quadruple the capacity of ventilators in Argentine hospitals. This solution aims to alleviate the possibility of ICU units reaching over-capacity and providing a sufficient number of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The project aims to raise $7,015 to expand Argentina’s existing ventilator capacity, potentially saving thousands of Argentine lives. As a disproportionate number of slum-dwellers are contracting the virus, this aid will help them overcome the effects of COVID-19.
  5. Las Tunas is an education-based NGO that offers children and adolescents various educational resources, including scholarships and arts empowerment classes. In light of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, the organization has expanded its efforts to help families remain economically stable. New website resources include a “Monitoring, Accompaniment and Early Detections” program that helps set up productive quarantine routines for families. The NGO also has a unique “Economic Development” program, which provides families with business strategies and training materials to increase household incomes. Original educational programs for youth are now also delivered online.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 cases in Argentina have overwhelmingly affected the country’s impoverished populations, diverse civil society organizations are working to combat the effects of COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums. Whether through economic empowerment or preventing misinformation on COVID-19, these five NGOs aim to stabilize Argentina’s most marginalized’s living conditions during the pandemic.

—Breana Stanski
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

Chinese Re-education Camps
Currently, China is holding Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. China is holding them captive in its re-education camps without trial, with the excuse that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight Islamic extremism. However, police forces hold power over these places, making it impossible for the Uyghur people to leave by choice. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are. This article covers information about the discovery of the Chinese re-education camps and how nations and people are taking action.

The China Cables Leak

Currently, estimates state that China is holding somewhere between one and three million Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. This number would equate to around 10 percent of the Uyghur Muslim population in China, which is about 10 million. The government is claiming that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight extremism. However, after the leak of the China Cables, China had a difficult time sustaining this narrative.

The China Cables refer to the leak of the operating manual for the Chinese re-education camps, which people formally knew as the Xinjian re-education camps. Prisoners only obtain weekly phone calls and a monthly video call with relatives. Other than that, any other contact can result in their suspension. The Chinese camps have high security and prisoners are under constant surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible for them to contact the outside without someone catching them.

One can mostly trace the documents back to 2017, and they explicitly reveal the government’s plans to use these facilities to forcibly teach manners and ideologies to the prisoners. Even though the government says the people can leave the camps and are there voluntarily, the China Cables state that the camps would only release the students after a year and only after achieving a minimum point score. Despite the evidence, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said: “What we established are vocational training centers — they are not concentration camps as called by some people.”

The World’s Action

The world has been noticeably quiet about this issue. However, some U.S. representatives have provided comments and critiques about the camps. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, has called the treatment of the Uyghurs “the stain of the century.” Deputy John Sullivan called it a “horrific campaign of repression.”

Even though it took some time, the U.S. government finally took concrete action. The administration blocked Chinese officials who carry out the repression from gaining visas to the U.S. The Commerce Department sanctioned Xinjiang’s Public Security Bureau, its subsidiaries and eight companies for their involvement in the persecution, detention and surveillance of the Chinese camps. China has used the camps as a testing ground for intrusive surveillance of the Uyghur.

Outside of the U.S., other nations are taking action. The United Kingdom has urged China to give U.N. observers access to detention camps. Belgium stated that it would continue raising the issue of human rights violations in these centers. Finally, 22 countries at the U.N. issued a joint statement directed to China to end the detentions and human rights violations of Muslims. The U.K., Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that signed.

Opensource Research

Any of these things would not be possible if it were not for the power of the people, beginning with the leak of the China Cables and opensource research. Opensource research is the type of research that includes sources available to everyone on the internet. German academic Adrian Zenz followed this type of research by using a Chinese search engine, Baidu, to discover documents that proved the existence of these camps.

Shawn Zhang is another significant contributor, who is a law student that used satellite imagery to investigate the location and size of the camps. Both of their research has supplied evidence and images to news outlets. It has also helped disprove the Chinese government’s denial of the camps. One should never underestimate the importance of the power of the people. Zhang says: “During my research, I have felt a lot of pressure from the Chinese government (…) [but] I think it is worth it because there are so many Uighur people held there. They just totally vanished, they disappear, like going into a black hole. They’ve lost contact with their families. At least my research can help international society to pressure the Chinese government so there can be a better chance of a peaceful solution.”

The Save Uighur Campaign

There has also been an increase in coverage of this issue, particularly in social media, through the hashtag #SaveUyghur. It is essential to keep talking about this, so more people become aware, and those in power feel pressured to exercise change. Finally, there are also nonprofits such as The Save Uighur Campaign, where people can donate and contact Congress. This NGO’s mission is to help the Uyghur Muslims suffering from the Chinese re-education camps. In its own words, “The project is a concerted effort to tie media exposure, public relations, and government action together into a single strategy aimed at the liberation of the Uighurs from the oppression they face at the hands of the Chinese government.” It is prompting people to protest and giving them the resources to do so as well.

A popular way of protesting, which Save Uighur also promotes, is Fast From China. China bans Muslims from fasting, which is part of their religion. As a way of protest and an act of solidarity, people stop eating Chinese products during the month of Ramadan. There is even a hashtag for this, #FastFromChina.

The Save Uighur NGO does something fundamental by encouraging people to contact Congress, as this is where one can see the most tangible progress when fighting for this issue. Congress is considering two bills that support Uighur Muslims. The Senate has already passed one, while the House of Representatives is yet to pass the other one. One can find the tools to support it and contact leaders on the Save Uighur website.

Atrocities are happening in China, but people are doing some things about them. People can start taking action and changing the circumstances by informing themselves and contacting their leaders. Some fantastic ideas are already in motion to fight against these Chinese re-education camps, both from the government and the people. From discovering the China Cables to a hashtag, everything counts in this battle. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Albert Einstein's Life as a Refugee
Lauded for his array of riveting breakthroughs and accomplishments in physics, Albert Einstein became emblematic of brilliance in the modern world. His general Theory of Relativity continues to aid modern astronomy and has paved the way for new theories involving black holes and the physical origin of the universe. However, Einstein’s legacy does not solely comprise of his scientific achievements. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee was arduous and many regard him as a humanitarian for his efforts to help the underprivileged.

Albert Einstein’s Origins

Albert Einstein was born in Germany in 1879 but renounced his German citizenship 17 years later due to his fondness for Swiss education. He began his work in physics in Switzerland but returned to Germany to work as a professor at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1914. A few short years later in 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. However, antisemitic harassment in Germany rose in the early months of 1932, and Einstein resigned from his professorship at the Prussian Academy for Sciences and relocated to Belgium.

How Albert Einstein Became a Refugee

In December 1932, Einstein and his wife visited the United States where he had secured a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 and unleashed a wave of antisemitism across the nation. The new government curbed the liberties of the Jewish people and they became prone to vicious attacks. Because of his fame as an accomplished Jewish physicist and the Third Reich accusing him of treason, Einstein became a target, especially when he traveled to Europe briefly in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and desecrated his property in Berlin. While he was initially unfazed, Einstein began to fear for his life and moved to the U.S. in the fall of 1933 and never visited Europe again.

After settling in Princeton, Einstein and his wife, Elsa, helped other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany apply for visas and advocated for their stay in the United States. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee finally ended when he received citizenship in 1940, but his legacy lives on to this day.

Albert Einstein as a Humanitarian

Albert Einstein is one of the most prominent scientists to have ever walked the earth, but his accomplishments do not stop there. In 1933, the International Relief Association emerged at Einstein’s behest. A group of American academics, artists and politicians, including John Dewey and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, came together to aid German Jews who were suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s oppressive regime. Furthermore, Einstein was a staunch opponent of segregation, discrimination and the violation of human rights. He encouraged scientists to develop technology to help people, not destroy them. Following the atrocities of World War II, Einstein signed a document now known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that calls for nuclear disarmament and arms reduction in the world. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee compelled him to predict that “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Albert Einstein’s scientific successes and humanitarian efforts will echo throughout the world for generations to come.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.
  3. Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:
    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr