Democratic Republic of Congo
For well over a decade now, the DRC has experienced conflict and instability. Local and regional armed forces create insecurity for civilian populations, that is further exacerbated by weak State infrastructure. The humanitarian and security crisis in the DRC is as complex as it has been devastating. It is widely accepted that as many as 3 - 5 million people, maybe more, have died due to both direct and indirect results of the conflict. Sexual violence has become an unfortunate norm in the DRC, and in times of insecurity, incidences of conflict-related sexual violence increase. Sexual and gender based violence is increasingly normalized, and survivors remain encumbered by stigma, lack of access to services and more. Our work in the DRC focuses on women's health and safety and addressing sexual violence related concerns, where we can. Since 2013 we have supported a range of actors including: individual human rights defenders, a consortium for the safety of young women, a cooperative of doctors and medical professionals, health centers and churches.
Afya Bora Health Center
The community of Kavumu is situated only approximately forty minutes outside of Bukavu, the capital city of South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite its relative nearness to a fairly urban hub, Kavumu faces high levels of extreme poverty and suffering, and in recent years has experienced a horrific surge in sexual violence committed against children as young as a few months old.
It is our honor to partner with the Afya Bora Health Center, and its founding organization: Medecins au Service des Demunis (MSD) to address health concerns for women and girls in particular in Kavumu.
We began partnering with MSD to work with them to achieve their mission "Afya Bora ni Haki kwa Wote" - Good Health is a Right for All, in Swahili. We began partnering with them on mobile clinic projects, during which we supplied sanitary pads hand made by ladies of Liberty University Fashion and Consumer Sciences Dept and screened films from our other partners - Medical Aid Films.
In a desire to be more effective and sustainable, MSD decided to move their clinic from the outskirts of Bukavu, to the heart of the community of Kavumu, where they would be better suited to respond to the needs of the community, instead of constantly relying on mobile-clinic missions and other short-term services. Channel Initiative supported this, and Afya Bora moved into the village of Kavumu to begin serving women and girls there.
Together with our community of partners, we have continued to support the functioning of Afya Bora clinic, to ensure that they are well-equipped to provide high quality care for their community. To date we have worked with Collaboration Sante Internationale for medicines, We Care Solar for a Solar Suitcase installation, Life for African Mothers, Maternova and our individual community members to support these local change makers.
Eglise du Christ au Congo
In early 2016, we began our partnership with the development branch of the Church of Christ in Congo - ECC-MERU, in the North Kivu province of the DRC. This Protestant church is one of the oldest and strongest faith institutions in the Eastern region of the DRC, and it provides critical development and humanitarian assistance to communities in the East. Among the key activities of the ECC-MERU is food security, health and hygiene and more.
We supported ECC-MERU's 2016 program "Health and Hygiene in the Mubimbi IDP camp", with materials including: 900 reusable sanitary napkins, clean birthing kits from World Birth Aid, and pregnancy tests from one of our previous supply collection drives, supported by individual members of our community. This health program sought to address one of the primary challenges faced by displaced women - access to health services, and formed part of ECC's broader initiative to respond to the health needs of displaced populations in Eastern Congo.
We are deeply troubled by growing massive displacement in Eastern Congo, particularly in North Kivu. Displacement is both a result of and contributing factor to ongoing conflict and insecurity in the DRC. We note in North Kivu, growing ethnic tensions, leading and linked to the displacement of the Hutu population in particular. We will continue to support ECC-MERU's initiatives to serve and protect displaced people, particularly women and girls, in North Kivu - keeping in mind that displacement places women and girls in particular, at extraordinary risk of health issues, sexual violence and more. We'll update this space as this partnership grows and develops.