South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo feels like one of the greenest places on earth. I’m writing to you after a lengthy trip through Congo visiting International Medical Corps’ work in this war-torn country. While traveling, I was struck by the stark contrast: green rolling hills for miles and yet malnutrition is a common problem for the people of South Kivu. At our health centers, doctors and nurses told me of the steady stream of emaciated children.
I heard the same frustration repeated over and over among the Congolese I met: the potential and desire for positive change versus the continuing insecurity after decades of conflict. Chance, a student volunteer at International Medical Corps’ office in Bunyakiri, is fluent in Swahili, French and English and will soon graduate from college. Yet despite representing Congo’s promising tomorrow, he asked me: “How can I plan a future, when I know that my family is not secure?” At the same time, I also had the opportunity to meet some incredible people striving to overcome these challenges and build a better tomorrow for Congo. Like Josiane, who specializes in helping communities combat gender-based violence. She says she knows her work is making a difference because “we see women coming here from further and further away, so I know that our messages are getting out into the community.” She keeps working every day because she believes that in 5 years, women in her community will have more rights.
Or the police officers in Bukavu, determined to break the cycle of violence, who brought their wives and children to our training to learn more about women’s rights and gender-based violence. The program works with police officers, as well as soldiers, religious leaders, lawyers, judges and teachers to turn community leaders into advocates for change. So often people view Congo as a failed state, beyond hope. Yet to do so would ignore this country’s greatest asset -- the determination of the Congolese people to secure a brighter future for their country.
To learn more about International Medical Corps’ efforts in the Congo since 1999, and some of our inspiring staff working to create lasting change within their own communities, visit our hub page.
Almost one year ago, you helped us respond to a massive humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. We’ve been able to reach thousands of families displaced, and today our training and education programs are creating lasting positive change within these devastated communities.
Ethiopia’s Dolo Ado camps are home to more than 150,000 refugees, the vast majority Somalis who’ve fled across the border to Ethiopia. A deeply conservative society, gender-based violence (GBV) is pervasive in Somalia and women are often relegated second-class status.
Since 2009, International Medical Corps’s GBV awareness and prevention programs in the Dolo Ado camps provide key services to survivors, including psychosocial support and referral services. We also work to change attitudes towards gender-roles and GBV within the community: our teams holds community events like tea talks, dance ceremonies, and skits to educate and mobilize community members.
Sadiya was just one of the women who’ve benefited from our work. After losing three of her children to the drought in Somalia, she fled with her remaining children to Dolo Ado while her husband stayed to look after their property.
Although life in the camps is challenging, Sadiya now has the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas on how to improve her and her family’s lives at International Medical Corps’ tea-talk sessions.
Says Sadiya: “I like attending the tea-talk sessions. I can be here with my friends. I feel safe here. I have a young daughter and thanks to what I have learned here, I won’t make her marry early. And I won’t subject her to female genital cutting.”
When asked if her husband would object to her new views, Sadiya replies, “I will educate him, and I think he will listen. If not, I will bring him to a tea-talk session.”
Sadiya is just one of thousands of refugees in East Africa whose lives we’ve changed with your help. On behalf of all of us at International Medical Corps, thank you!
During Libya’s civil war, Igbal and other women in her community sold their jewelry to provide food for men fighting on the frontlines. She was compelled to start For Our Country, an association run by rural women who delivered food and other essentials to fighters. Today, her women's group serves as a place for women and girls to gather, supports families, and offers livelihood training programs. International Medical Corps has provided sewing machines, fabric cutting machines, and a steam press to Igbal's organization, which will be used to provide income-generating opportunities for women and girls. In addition, our staff organized trainings with For Our Country around gender-based violence.
To learn more about our work with Igbal and For Our Country, as well as our continuing programs in Libya, visit: http://internationalmedicalcorps.org/libya