VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
In Congo, hope comes to remote shores
March 6, 2012 by Sinziana Demian
|Mushenyi, a village of 3,500 people in eastern Congo, is cut off from its neighbors by massive Lake Kivu on one side and overgrown mountains on the other. Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC|
As the boat coasts into the cove around noonday, several dozen villagers, children along with adults, rush from the banana groves onto the beach, their welcoming cries filled with joy and expectation.
For the past six months, however, Mushenyians have felt less isolated, thanks to the efforts of the International Rescue Committee, which has been rolling out health and reconstruction projects in hundreds of similar communities in Congo. IRC staff now make the two-hour trip from Bukavu, South Kivu’s largest city and IRC’s main base in the region, with a motorboat purchased specifically for the purpose, bringing much-needed medicine and other supplies that were almost nonexistent in remote areas along the lake.
Until the IRC’s intervention, Mushenyi’s only health facility was a dark, cramped, three-room hut, staffed by a state-assigned nurse who rarely received his salary. In any case, few villagers could afford his services, the equivalent of about a dollar a visit, and there were no drugs to combat malaria and other scourges common to the region.
“We have seen a big change since the IRC arrived,” says Mulumeoderhwa, the nurse currently working in Mushenyi. “Women who used to give birth at home, in very poor conditions, now come to the new clinic to receive professional assistance when bringing their babies into the world.”
In addition to providing incentive payments to health workers to supplement their irregular salaries, the IRC has eliminated consultation fees for pregnant women, children under five and the elderly. “Mothers bring their young children for check-ups more often since they don’t have to pay for this service anymore,” explains Mulumeoderhwa.
The IRC was able to extend support to Mushenyi as part of its community-driven reconstruction program known as Tuungane, which means “Let’s Unite” in the local Swahili dialect. Tuungane, IRC’s largest program in Congo, encourages communities to identify their own needs and then manage their own construction projects. In Mushenyi, people opted to build a school and rehabilitate the inadequate health center. The IRC’s health program allotted further financial support to the community to make both projects a reality for just US$44,000.
“This is really something we never dreamed we could have here,” says 47-year-old Justin Kabale. “We are really grateful that the IRC chose to support us in such a generous way. We now have a school for our children and a big, clean health center. They make a huge difference to our lives.”
(Photo: SInziana Demian/IRC)
Donate Now: On the ground in some of the world's most troubled places, the IRC helps people at their moment of greatest need.