How the Australian Government helped to bring peace to a previously war ravaged section of DR Congo
History: The eastern side of DR Congo has been racked with war with over 5 million people dying in the last 50 years. 2013 was particularly bad.
In 2013 while in Canberra Dr Luc spoke with Hon Julie Bishop MP the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Australia about how the UN soldiers were hated by the local people as they were fully armed yet watched from inside fences as women and children were killed nearby. Julie Bishop, whether because of this discussion or not, then brought a resolution to a UN committee she was chairing to change the role of the UN soldiers. For the first time the UN soldiers had the power to use arms to defend the people. Dr Luc reported that within 6 months there was peace on the borders and the DRC army was then able to set up small camps along the border to protect communities.
BITA: How to bring sustainable food production and an economic future to an impoverished rural village for US$300
This was a prime example of three organisations, MHCD, the Birthing Kit Foundation Australia (BKFA) and Zonta clubs in Australia, coming together to bring about progress for the village to be self-sufficient and provide education for their children – all very empowering for these women. Zonta clubs are the funders of the microcredit programs.
MHCD finds communities in need with women strong leaders in their midwifery clubs that distribute birthing kits for clean and safe home deliveries. The BKFA supplies the birthing kits and MHCD forms midwifery clubs. In 2013 Zonta gave US$300 to 40 women. They grew ground nuts and made a good income, they were given 2 acres of land and bought a tractor and now have 2 acres under cassava and tomatoes. They were also involved in pigs, chickens, goats, maise growing and other programs. The business plan was 50% of profits pay for food and education of children and 50% for next season’s crop. The children now go to school. It is the first generation to be educated.
MHCD then gave them US$500 and were shown how to make bricks and have built a 6 room health clinic on land bought by the village from the profits. Many women are empowered and the whole community women, men and children lifted.
How can a container Help?
A container brings hospital beds and medical resources, tables and chairs for the clinic, a cupboard for pharmacies and a dispensary. Clothes, blankets, reusable sanitary packs, birthing kits, shoes, computers, sewing machines, solar panels and more.
Lubarika: A devastated community helped out of despair by MHCD, Zonta and MHCDASA.
In 2013, M23 soldiers set up base camp here, resulting in horrific stories of rape, death, babies born from the rapes and resultant marriage breakdowns, and the taking of children for child soldiers. They were a devastated community with much sadness and pain.
In 2014 MHCD heard about their suffering and decide to help. Lubarika has a midwifery club of women leaders and distributes birthing kits. 10 women were taken to MHCD Luvungi hospital to Pamela Community Centre to help bring them out of “despair”. Here they received TBA training and micro-credit and business training, with programs funded by US$2000 from Zonta clubs and MHCDASA.
In 2016 they had vegetables and fields of rice, cassava and maise and many different animals being farmed, including ducks, chickens, pigs, goats and rabbits. They had sustainable food production and profits that enabled all children to be educated and the community to prosper.
There were no signs of malnutrition
How can a container Help?
A container will bring resources for their own health clinic. Women who have never had a sanitary pad will finally have reusable, washable Days 4 Girls sanitary packs. They will receive clothes and more blankets for every family. A solar panel will bring power to the village.
It was hard not to see the haunted faces of women still suffering the trauma from 2013.
Many may never recover but at least they know people in Australia care.
Kaliba’s Story: The road to a new life
In 2013 Burundi rebels set up camp in Kaliba, killed many men, raped women and stole their food when they left. Many men are shamed by the soldiers and the atrocities on their women. Very few men were left in the community. Many widows were desperate for help. Rumours had spread about women and children dying from malnutrition.
MHCD took all the women and babies to MHCD Luvungi hospital for a month. There they were fed and housed at Pamela Community Centre. Here the women had TBA training, funded by MHCD, and micro-credit training while recovering. MHCDASA funded the nutritional food supplements for malnourished children and pregnant women, along with medicines. MHCDASA and Zonta funded the micro-credit programs in pigs, goats, butter, chickens, ducks, local beer, rice, beans and cassava. 12 from the midwifery club met.
The women were now empowered and unanimously shouted YES when asked “are they more in control of their lives?” One woman said ”Now they are happy and respected as they have something to do and money for children.”
One woman’s special inspiration.
In 2013 she was a widow sleeping outside with her children. After micro-credit training she started making her own local beer, then from the profits got a pig and made mud bricks. One year later she had built her own home and next year it will proudly have a metal roof.
The DRC army has now set up a camp nearby to protect the village. So now they feel safe.
How can a container Help?
A container will bring resources for their health clinic, clothes, shoes, blankets, Days4Girls packs and solar panels.
Nyringongo Pigmie community that feels” it has been forgotten”
The community sits in the shadow of the active Nyringongo volcano about 20 kms into Virunga National Park near Goma in North Kivu Province on the eastern side of DRC.
In 2013 M23 soldiers came through and left the community devastated and without food.
This community had received some birthing kits and TBA training in 2008 but nothing else. No microcredit or benefits from a container. All the children and adults but a few were in torn dirty clothes. The homes were basic with grass roofs, some had metal sheeting.
The village elder, a very distinguished man spoke eloquently about their many needs. He spoke how they now had generations with no education and the young ones needed education. How there was no water in the village, they had to walk kms to the river to get water. How they feel “they have been forgotten. That no one should sleep like they do on dirt” they would like mattresses. It was a compelling story of neglect and sadness. They used to gather charcoal to sell from the surrounds of the mountain, now it is a national park and it is not allowed. He wanted “someone to care about them ”
A local midwifery club leader spoke strongly on their need for a health centre, school and good homes. They were thankful for the birthing kits and training so many years ago.
Zonta and MHCDASA members have funded a new microcredit program to make the village more sustainable. From the profits they could build a health clinic and maybe a school.
How can a container Help?
It could bring 100 vinyl covered hospital mattresses, medical resources, clothes, blankets, shoes, solar panels, school desks and chairs, writing books and pencils and so much more.
What does a container bring to the local communities?
Containers are tangible proof for the Congolese people that there are Australians who care about them. The benefits go beyond the individual items.
Containers bring health resources for local clinics and the hospital. Blankets for their children and babies, reusable washable sanitary pads for the first time in women and girl’s lives, clean second hand clothes and shoes, babies clothes, sports clothes and shoes, computers for students at trade school, sewing machines for the tailoring school and to give the women who graduate, solar panels for power generation throughout the hospital and community, birthing kits for the birth attendants, school tables and chairs for the schools and clothes for the orphans.
Containers cost a lot to transport – up to $23,000. However, one surgical operating table would cost $10,000 and one of our high quality is not able to be bought in DR Congo. It is a similar story to all the resources that are sent like hospital beds.