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Theater in Africa
Education is an essential tool to guide the next generation and prepare them for success. In South Africa and Rwanda, education is vital, and a good portion of government spending goes toward education. In 2013, South Africa invested 19.7% of its national budgets toward education, while Rwanda invested 11%. Both South Africa and Rwanda recognize that education impacts the success of their citizens. A mode of education that can transform the way children learn is through theater. The International Theatre Project aspires to teach children in South Africa and Rwanda the building blocks of theater to ignite their confidence. Teaching theater in Africa can produce a new generation of leaders who are passionate about their heritage.

What is the International Theatre Project?

 The International Theatre Project began as a test to see how new programs would impact students. In 2005, two professionals experienced in theater arts, Stephen DiMenna and Marianna Houston, decided to conduct their project in Tanzania with 21 pupils. DiMenna and Houston had the students write a play in English and perform the piece for their community. The play reflected the students’ aspirations for the future. Producing the piece had a profound impact on the students. The 21 pupils who worked on the project tended to score higher on English exams than their peers. Seeing the positive impact of theater on young students, DiMenna and Houston returned the following year, thereby founding the International Theatre Project.

Since then, the International Theatre Project has held programs in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Rwanda, South Africa and India. The students who participate in the programs often lack opportunities in education, and poverty presents even more barriers. According to the International Theatre company, 90% of their students continue their education into college, 80% of students have job opportunities after graduating high school, 100% score higher on their English exams and 100% are inspired to educate others in their communities. The company’s most recent accomplishment is having students perform their original piece in Cape Town, South Africa. A former ITP alumnus, Calvin from Tanzania, states how his experience with ITP, “…gave me the confidence to be more than I think I can be. I can deliver and I never knew that before.”

Programs Offered by ITP

Since its founding, the International Theatre Company has developed several unique programs. For instance, Rising Voices is a program specifically for teaching theater in Africa. Students in this program have the opportunity to write and perform their own pieces. If a student has been with the program for more than four years, they can participate in Leading Acts, where they become mentors for other students. The International Theatre Project also has two opportunities based in New York. Open Doors is a program where recent immigrants can develop the skills necessary to adjust to a new way of life. Alternatively, the Stefan Nowicki Camp Treetops Scholarship Program provides two ITP students from South Africa or Rwanda to participate in a seven-week summer camp held in upstate New York. All four of these programs create ways for children to learn theater as well as develop their leadership skills.

Why Theater Education is Beneficial

Theater emphasizes freedom of expression, and through that expression, one can benefit immensely.  According to a psychological study written by Sydney Walker, there are many advantages students gain by participating in theater. For one, students improve their self-esteem through participation and self-expression. When interacting with others in the theater, students can connect on a deeper level and create an outlet for their emotions. Theatre also allows students to identify conflicts and create resolutions.

Teaching theater in Africa presents students with a new way to learn and participate in their communities. Furthermore, it allows students to create relationships with one another and communicate their own emotions. Organizations like the International Theatre Project create ways for theater to be shared and taught to anyone, regardless of their circumstances.

Brooke Young
Photo: Unsplash

Drones in AfricaThe mission of Zipline, a company started in 2014 and based in San Francisco, is to “provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” To accomplish this goal, the company has created a drone delivery service where drones in Africa distribute lifesaving medical supplies to remote clinics in Ghana and Rwanda. More recently Zipline has expanded to other locations across the globe, including the U.S.

Poverty in Rwanda and Ghana

Rwanda is a rural East African country that relies heavily on farming. Although the country has made improvements in recent years, the 1994 Rwandan genocide damaged the economy and forced many people into poverty, particularly women. As of 2015, 39% of the population lived below the poverty line and Rwanda was ranked 208th out of 228 countries in terms of GDP per capita. On top of this, Rwanda only has 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people, which is insufficient to meet health care needs according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana, located in West Africa, has fewer economic problems than neighboring countries in the region. However, debt, high costs of electricity and a lack of a stable domestic revenue continue to pose a threat to the economy. The GDP per capita was $4,700 as of 2017, with 24.2% of the population living below the poverty line. Although Ghana has a higher ratio of physicians per 1,000 people than Rwanda, with 0.18 physicians, it still falls below the WHO recommendation of at least 2.3 physicians per 1,000.

Benefits of Drone Delivery Services

On-demand delivery, such as drone delivery services, are typically only available to wealthy nations. However, Zipline evens the playing field by ensuring that those living in poorer and more remote regions also have access to the medical supplies they need. Zipline has made over 37,000 deliveries. In Rwanda, the drones provide deliveries across the country, bypassing the problems of dangerous routes, traffic and vehicle breakdowns, speeding up delivery and therefore minimizing waste. Additionally, Zipline’s drones in Africa do not use gasoline but, instead, on battery power.

Drone Delivery Services and COVID-19

Zipline’s services have been especially crucial during the COVID-19 response. Zipline has partnered with various nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and governments to complement traditional means of delivery of medical supplies on an international scale. This has helped to keep delivery drivers at home and minimize face-to-face interactions. As there are advances in treatments for COVID-19, delivery by drones in Africa has the potential to provide access to the vulnerable populations who are most at risk. At the same time, it can help vulnerable people stay at home by delivering medications directly to them or to nearby clinics, minimizing travel and reducing the chance of exposure. Zipline distribution centers have the capability to make thousands of deliveries a week across 8,000 square miles. Doctors and clinics simply use an app to order the supplies they need, receiving the supplies in 15 to 20 minutes. The drones are equipped for any weather conditions.

New means of providing medical equipment are helping to ensure that the world’s poor have access to the supplies they need. A company called Zipline has been using drones to deliver medical supplies to Africa, specifically in Rwanda and Ghana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been crucial in providing people and clinics with the medical supplies they need.

Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

memoirs
The problems in developing countries are often viewed as too big to find solutions. Because of this, many people are deterred from putting in seemingly futile efforts to alleviate a problem. But, they are more likely to join the fight when they learn the individual names and faces of those living under such conditions. These five memoirs about overcoming poverty highlight success stories and seek to mobilize people with a renewed sense of hope.

5 Memoirs About Overcoming Poverty

  1. Masaji Ishikawa recalls escaping from North Korea in “A River in Darkness.” With Japanese heritage from his mother and Korean from his father, he found himself caught between two worlds. When his father realized he could no longer tolerate the discrimination he faced in Japan, the family moved to North Korea. They arrived with the promise of paradise and found, simply put, quite the opposite. Ishikawa was only thirteen years old.In this memoir, he describes atrocious living conditions with graphic detail, unparalleled by any other nation in the world. The regime controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and Ishikawa tells readers that “the penalty for thinking was death.” More than any of the five memoirs about overcoming poverty, “A River in Darkness” highlights an ongoing crisis.Since North Korea remains untouched by the rest of the world, it’s difficult to extend support to those still living under the dictatorship. But Ishikawa’s story is one of many that prove North Koreans are waking up to the reality of their oppression. Gradually, more people are choosing to gain control over their destinies.
  2. When Jacqueline Novogratz donated a sweater to Goodwill, she never expected to encounter a young boy wearing it on the streets of Rwanda. It ended up being the namesake for her book entitled “The Blue Sweater.” She holds onto this memory as an important message of interconnectivity and the responsibility to help people in need.Her travels to various countries revealed economic injustice along with a lack of credit access for those with low incomes. This led her to help open the first bank in Rwanda available to women. Along with numerous other initiatives through The Acumen Fund, Novogratz learned that charity is fleeting compared to the sustainability of helping innovators launch businesses to benefit millions of people.
  3. Several reporters sought to overcome poverty by being a voice for untold stories in developing countries. Maya Ajmera, joined by co-authors Sarah Strunk and Olateju Omolodun, wrote “Extraordinary Girls” about what girlhood looks like across the world. Despite cultural differences, the authors work to prove that all girls can find common ground in the desire to make their dreams come true.Their book showcases girls such as Alexandra Nechita from Romania, an exceptional painter whose work was published in a collection by the age of eleven. Through this and many other success stories, the book’s purpose is to encourage girls to be active in their communities rather than feel as if their only option is to fulfill traditional gender roles.
  4. Katherine Boo sheds light on the ramshackle town of Annawadi in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”. This book illustrates how members of this community responded to India’s promise for renewed economic prosperity amid a global recession. A young man named Abdul discovered the value of reselling possessions thrown out by the wealthy. Others sought to change the course of politics by climbing the social ranks, like the Annawadi community member who became the first woman in that settlement to be a college graduate. These stories are about relying on pure grit to succeed in life when the economic system favors only the rich.
  5. The last of these five memoirs about overcoming poverty is “Teach a Woman to Fish” by Ritu Sharma. It’s a reinterpretation of the gendered language in this saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” She argues that if women are taught the same thing, everyone will be fed too.Sharma helped found a business run by women in Honduras, giving them a chance to break free from the household sphere and gain financial independence. Other countries she visited include Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. In the book, readers can also find tips for shopping in ways that support female entrepreneurs and email templates if they feel inspired to speak with their members of Congress about this important cause.

All the authors in these five memoirs about overcoming poverty have discovered important lessons about global issues through real-life experiences. They write about them in the hopes that people will no longer be complacent in the face of a problem that, contrary to what some might believe, can be solved.

Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in MaliAfrica is the only continent in the world in which poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. In a vast country with an undiversified economy, Malian households are especially vulnerable to poverty food insecurity.

Recently, Mali has faced “shocks” to its economic profile, including from a partial drought and internal strife. A 2013 World Bank study found that a 25 percent increase in cereal prices and 25 percent decrease in cereal production would push over 600,000 individuals to food insecurity levels in Mali. In addition, sustainably high population growth rates have risen the number of malnourished individuals in the country.

Effects of Child Malnutrition in Mali

While millions of Malians of all ages are affected by food insecurity, malnutrition is the second highest cause of death of children under the age of five. Almost 900,000 Mali children are at risk of global acute malnutrition in Mali, including 274,000 facing severe malnutrition and at risk of imminent death, according to UNICEF and the World Bank. To put this in the context of the country’s population, a 2013 World Bank study found that 44 percent of Malian households have at least one chronically malnutritioned child.

Malnutrition leads to devastating, long-lasting effects on young people. Research by an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Ana Lydia Saway, shows that malnutrition is linked to higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production. These are all factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life. 

How Mali is Combatting the Issue

Child malnutrition in Mali is a significant concern, requiring action and deserving worldwide attention. But a major problem limiting international assistance comes in the form of funding for aid.

In May, UNICEF reported that limited donor interest in the region has made it increasingly difficult for the organization to provide children with therapeutic food necessary to combat malnutrition. Funding for humanitarian organizations is low, as nearly 80 percent of UNICEF’s $37 million call for humanitarian aid for the year 2018 has not been raised.

“The children of Mali are suffering in silence, away from the world’s attention,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said during a visit to the country this year. “Amid increasing violence, more children are going hungry, missing out on learning and dying in the first days of life.”  

Still, community and international-based organizations are working to mitigate the effects of child malnutrition in Mali. For example, in the capital of Ségou Centre, the local population, with the help of the World Bank and Swiss Corporation agency, is working to provide necessary social services to its commune.

The third phase of this project involved the decentralizing of health facilities, which were starchly underequipped. The commune recently constructed a community health center, showing promising bottom-up action within Mali. Other organizations are helping out to create sustainable progress in development, including Groundswell International.

Furthermore, farmers and processors in Mali have been working together to increase the presence of Misola flour to combat malnutrition. During processing, vitamins and minerals are added to the flour, targeting those with nutritional deficiencies. 

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that Misola can help rehabilitate undernourished children and help those with depressed immune systems. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” Fernand Rolet, co-President of the Misola Association, said. 

Overcoming Child Malnutrition Globally

Rwanda provides a prime example that overcoming child malnutrition is possible. The nation, which has a similar wealth level to Mali, has made progress in lowering malnutrition levels. A 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Access Report found that the level of stunting in young children dropped seven percent from three years prior. In Rwanda, the World Food Programme has been largely active, supplying food assistance such as providing meals for thousands of primary school children.

Combating malnutrition is an ongoing struggle, especially in Africa. Due to poor economic conditions and food scarcity, malnutrition continues to take the lives of thousands of children in Mali each year. Although citizens have founded programs to improve child nutrition and the issue is on humanitarian aid organizations’ radars, it is clear that more effort is needed to eradicate the problem. With continued efforts, child malnutrition in Mali will begin to decline.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Post-Genocide Reconstruction in RwandaAfter the three-month-long genocide in 1994 that claimed the lives of approximately 800,000 predominantly Tutsi and moderate-Hutu citizens, Rwanda has been working to rebuild, reconstruct and promote lasting peace and stability.

Poverty in the post-genocide years is still a prevalent issue, even after 23 years of reconstruction in Rwanda. More than 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, and the nation failed to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the 1990 poverty rate by 2015. However, the current state of poverty must be considered in the context of the conflict and upheaval Rwanda has experienced and the progress it has made since its brutal setback.

Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 23.8 percent reduction in poverty. Rwanda has also become one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa. It had four straight years, between 2011 and 2014, of GDP growth at eight percent. These are all positive signs for Rwanda’s future.

Since the genocide and the preceding civil war, under the leadership of former-RPF leader Paul Kagame, the government, local NGOs and the international community have worked toward reconstruction in Rwanda.

On the federal level, economic reform has led to rapid and sustainable economic growth which has lifted many people out of poverty. Privatization and liberalization have been the core tenets of this economic growth. More specifically, it has been achieved by increasing opportunities for employment outside of the agricultural sector, increasing agricultural productivity and increasing entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

Women have been central to reconstruction in Rwanda. Women make up 57 percent of the adult working population and they produce nearly 70 percent of the country’s overall agricultural output. Women have also organized themselves into socio-professional associations, development associations and cooperative groups, thereby taking control of and exercising agency over the reconstruction process.

Outside of the economy, gender equality has still been a focus, especially in politics. Women make up 64 percent of the Rwandan parliament, which is three times the worldwide average of 22 percent.

Interpersonal social reconstruction has also been a necessity, since the conflict exploited ethnic divides and hatreds. On the federal level, Rwanda adopted a policy of de-ethnicization wherein they “erased” ethnicity, stating that there were no longer Hutu and Tutsis, only unified Rwandans. On the local level, communities implemented Gacaca community courts to relieve the judicial burden of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda and foster accountability and reconciliation.

Local organizations and initiatives have had a crucial role to play in reform and reconstruction. These groups have worked on both the community empowerment and economic empowerment levels, as well as on many other fronts.

The Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe’s Action Peace Campaign works to empower women to realize the need to live in peace, give them the tools to live together peacefully and organize “dialogue clubs” to address underlying tensions. Another initiative, TO THE MARKET, is an online sales platform where genocide survivors can sell homemade goods globally. This harnesses local entrepreneurship and economically empowers the artisans.

Regarding the government, Kagame’s leadership has been strong and authoritative. While this has allowed him to mandate many economic reforms, it has also squashed political dissidence and limited freedom of the press.

The needs of women continually need to be met. The Rwandan Genocide was the first time in which mass rape was recognized as a tool of genocide. The prevalence of rape during the conflict means that today there are thousands of survivors who need unique support from the government and from society.

Finally, Rwanda is still very dependent on foreign aid. Approximately 35 percent of its budget comes from foreign aid. The next step in reconstruction should be to increase independence and make sustainable economic advancements so Rwanda can support itself with less support from the international community.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Women's empowerment in RwandaWomen’s empowerment in Rwanda is a challenge known to women all too well. Following the end of the Rwandan Genocide in the spring of 1994, the country’s new leadership introduced a series of inclusionary acts that aimed to re-establish the position of women in their strongly patriarchal society.

The approach, though indeed revolutionary, has all the hang-ups usually associated with Top-Down solutions for social change. Namely, the government’s new policy, which requires 1:3 proportion of women to men in parliament, has done little to alter the reign of patriarchy in the general consciousness of the male population. Though the achievements it can claim are remarkable in comparison to many of its neighbor states, the fact remains that the women of Rwanda have yet to realize full empowerment.

Those who can claim empowerment are, interestingly, most often survivors of the genocide. In these cases, the basis of their empowerment stems from what they have made of their shared experience since 1994, not so much from the government’s policy shifts.

A popular example of women’s empowerment in Rwanda is the Widows Associations which formed in response to the massive loss of men during the genocide. Acting, at first, as a support network for newly widowed women, these associations gradually morphed into collations of women who found themselves in new roles as Rwanda’s primary breadwinners.

After 20 years of action, these networks have transitioned from the promotion of women’s issues in the late 1990s to supporting the survivors of genocide. More specifically, the focus is on supporting nearly 500,000 women who were raped in 1994. There is a 76 percent prevalence of HIV in survivors of rape and a 25-30 percent occurrence of PTSD symptoms in the whole of Rwanda’s female population alive in 1994.

In schools, in the home and in less internationally visible arenas, women and girls continue to face the expectations of traditional patriarchy. Even those who have attained seats in parliament have been found, according to a 2014 NPR story, to experience adverse situations at home. This includes marital rape and abuse, as well as general gendered expectations for marital roles, such as women doing the cleaning, cooking, etc.

Ultimately, the challenge women’s empowerment in Rwanda faces is the permeation of social norms. It is only once this has occurred that women at all levels of society will be provided the social support necessary for universal empowerment to occur.

Katrina Schrag 

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in RwandaRwanda, a country located in Central-Eastern Africa, is a country that has experienced everything from colonialism to genocide. Currently, Rwanda continues to battle hidden enemies within its borders: various diseases that infect its population. With a population of more than 11 million, the occurrence of common communicable diseases in Rwanda is an urgent concern.

The top ten causes of death in Rwanda are lower respiratory infections, HIV, diarrheal diseases, congenital birth defects, cancer, preterm birth complications, encephalopathy, neonatal sepsis, protein energy malnutrition and road injuries. Of these causes of death, diseases make up at least a third of the list.

Respiratory Disease

Lower respiratory disease is an unexpected, but serious health concern in Rwanda. The elderly, specifically those over 80, are especially vulnerable to lower respiratory infections after a lifetime of exposure to factors that cause lower respiratory infections.

Air pollution and malnutrition are the leading contributors to respiratory infections. Interestingly, neither are factors which an individual can directly control. Individuals are vulnerable to lower respiratory infections throughout their life due to these environmental factors. Tobacco, alcohol and drug usage only account for about 10 percent of lower respiratory diseases.

Hepatitis B and C 

Other common diseases in Rwanda are Hepatitis (B and C). Hepatitis consists of the inflammation of the liver. Unfortunately, hepatitis shows limited symptoms, if any at all, making it difficult to diagnose. When symptoms do show, they may consist of yellowish skin and poor appetite. Hepatitis is classified as “acute” when it lasts fewer than six months, and “chronic” when it lasts longer.

Sometimes, hepatitis may be diagnosed as malaria, since malaria victims also experience yellowish skin. However, malaria’s other symptoms manifest more powerfully: the ill person will experience fever, fatigue, vomiting and headaches. In the worse cases of malaria, people experience seizures, comas and ultimately, death. In 2013, 900,000 people in Rwanda were diagnosed with malaria.

Typhoid

Typhoid is a disease that occurs as result of ingesting contaminated food or water. Typhoid brings reduced appetite, headaches, generalized aches and pains, fever and worse of all, diarrhea. Typhoid is predominantly caused by external factors such as the ingestion of contaminants.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is another silent disease spreading through the population of Rwanda. HIV/AIDS is spread through drug needles or through sexual contact with infected people. Some symptoms of HIV/AIDS include swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. This disease is fast-spreading — one person is infected every 30 minutes. In 2013, 200,000 Rwandans were living with HIV/AIDS, with 4,500 dying the same year. Being infected with HIV/AIDS increases a person’s chance by 30 times of developing active tuberculosis.

Breast Cancer

In addition to these diseases, cancer—especially breast cancer—is common among Rwandans. Access to hospitals and medical treatment may be difficult in terms of finances and transport.

Poverty and susceptibility to communicable diseases are closely linked. Once a disease is contracted, the lack of medical care places those ill at great risk.

War and Poverty  

Diseases strike resource-poor communities, like those in Rwanda. Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 took a great toll on the communities: 800,000 Rwandans were killed in 3 months. During the genocide, systematic rape served to transmit HIV/AIDS to thousands. Rwandans who fled to refugee camps weren’t safe either. The lack of sanitation, food and water increased the spread of infectious diseases rapidly. Rwandans found themselves falling prey to malaria and tuberculosis.

Rwanda’s communities are still recovering from war and battling poverty. The poor find it difficult to access medical care when they are ill; communicable diseases then spread because they are left untreated. The cycle of poverty leaves many susceptible to treatable diseases.

Solutions 

However, hope is not lost: the Rwandan government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working to work towards preventing common diseases in Rwanda. The CDC is trying to develop more labs and clinics to help treat HIV/AIDS, including distributing blood safety devices to help prevent HIV/AIDS in the first place. For malaria, the CDC is taking a preventative approach, by distributing nets and insecticide. The CDC is also monitoring each case of malaria carefully.

Rwanda is also home to Congolese refugees. Due to the preventative healthcare approach the CDC is taking, it is screening Congolese refugees for infectious diseases and chronic conditions that may be contagious to residents of Rwanda.

The Rwandan government has been cooperative with new approaches in its medical treatment infrastructure. In July 2017, the government became one of the first African countries to implement the World Health Organization’s treatment strategy, heralding a focus on preventative medicine.

The CDC and the Rwandan government demonstrate that together, agencies and communities can slowly defeat the common diseases in Rwanda.

Smriti Krishnan
Photo: Flickr

Code for Good
By harnessing the power of technology, three young men in Rwanda have set out to empower other Rwandan youths. Ildephonse Mungwarakarama, Theogene Niyonsenga and Jerome Habimana launched the Code for Good program to teach Rwandan students, the skills they need for app development for free.

The three entrepreneurs began their partnership in 2014 when they launched House of Technology, a company that provides its clients with web-based solutions ranging from website design to internet portal management. Code for Good is their most recent initiative.

The Code for Good program is aimed at educating youth throughout Rwanda about app development, reaching college students and those that have already graduated from universities, as well as those still in high school and under the age of 18.

For those that may be unemployed after college, Mungwarakarama, Niyonsenga and Habimana hope to provide the opportunity to learn valuable skills and gain work experience. Regardless of age or schooling, the program prepares students to meet industry standards and to enter the workforce, all the while improving academic performance.

Training is completed within the community by volunteers who meet with students after they have registered to complete the program. Once students have completed their training, they are equipped with the skills needed to teach these same skills to others as well as to apply what they have learned to future projects.

This program could be especially impactful in a country where poverty is such a prevalent issue. Of Rwanda’s nearly 13 million people, 62 percent live in poverty. In recent years, there has been an indication of a positive trend away from poverty, as the Rwandan economy has grown rapidly and the poverty rate has dropped. Programs like Code for Good will help to continue this trend.

With organizations like Code for Good that are actively engaged in building Rwanda’s future, it seems as if much can be done to alleviate poverty in Rwanda. By capitalizing on the high-tech world, young Rwandans can enact powerful change within their country.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

Help People in RwandaFor more than twenty years, Rwanda has been a country in the midst of healing from its devastating mass genocide of 1994, a horrific episode in which Rwanda’s government sponsored the murder of approximately 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Hutu civilians carried out the majority of the attacks.

With this in mind, it is hard to imagine how to help people in Rwanda. And yet, the country has made remarkable progress in the years following the genocide, though there is still lots of work to be done. Here are five solutions that address how to help people in Rwanda:

  1. Support education
    With two out of three Rwandan citizens under the age of 25, the country has turned its attention and its hopes to children still in school. Schools in Rwanda are making a clear effort to discourage divisive ethnic labels; rather than Hutu or Tutsi, students are taught to identify themselves and others as Rwandans, all working toward a greater unity. There are many ways to support this effort, such as sponsoring a student through Foundation Rwanda or supporting one of the many organizations — Rwanda Aid, Aid for Africa and the Rwanda Orphans Project, to name a few — whose goal it is to further education in Rwanda.
  2. Support and encourage skilled labor
    While more Rwandan children are in school than ever before, there is a 40 percent unemployment rate among young people, and not enough Rwandans have skills necessary for the labor market. Part of this is because, while school attendance is very good, the quality of the schooling still needs improvement. One way to help is to support USAID’s work in Rwanda. USAID has been part of an effort to better students’ schooling and chances of finding a good job. Since 2011, USAID has helped equip 20,000 students with skills necessary to be employed, and 60 percent of those students have since gained new or better employment.
  3. Buy Rwandan coffee and tea
    One of the main sources of income for Rwanda comes from its production of coffee and tea. Rwandan coffee, apart from benefiting its economy, is known for its delicately sweet, citrusy and delicious flavor, and Rwandan tea, whether green or black, is known for producing a bold, rich flavor.
  4. Support survivors of genocide, especially those living with HIV/AIDS
    The genocide in 1994 also came alongside a horrifically large number of rapes, which resulted in many people in Rwanda becoming infected with HIV and AIDS. These people, along with the many, many others suffering from the trauma of the genocide, were and continue to be in need of both physical and mental help. Thankfully, many organizations continue to help people in Rwanda heal, such as Rwanda Gift for Life and the SURF Survivors Fund.
  5. Visit Rwanda
    While being known in recent history mainly for its horrors, Rwanda is also home to breathtaking areas of natural beauty. Another one of Rwanda’s main sources of income is its tourist trade, as people from around the world come to see the country’s dense rainforests and the 1,000 mountain gorillas, some of the last surviving on Earth, that live within them.

This is just a brief exploration of how to help people in Rwanda move past a painful part of their history. While Rwandans are grateful for any help, it has also become increasingly important that Rwanda stand on its own two feet, with the knowledge in mind that it cannot survive on aid forever. In 2012, the Rwandan government launched a fund to attract investments into the country in the hopes of generating more internal revenue, and gave the fund a firmly hopeful name: Agaciro, which means “dignity.”

Audrey Palzkill