The United Nations says 12.8 million people of which 5.6 million of them are children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are currently in need of humanitarian aid.
The Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) has been helping hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Congolese people gain access to education, healthcare and other basic services since 2008.
PIN has been aiding in hard-to-access areas of South Kivu and Maniema provinces, where the organisation tackles acute malnutrition in children and mothers.
According to the organisation, some 2,500 Congolese children are cured of malnutrition every year and tens of thousands of people are trained in disease prevention, which is essential for reducing high rates of child mortality caused by extreme poverty.
PIN’s Desk Officer for DR Congo programme, Zuzana Břehová, said: “As a result of poor healthcare and malnutrition, one in seven children die before their fifth birthday. People in Need has been helping cure malnutrition and trains people how to prevent it.”
Břehová added: “For a long time, we have been focusing on prevention within communities, which entails educating on issues like food diversification for mothers and children, the importance of breastfeeding for healthy development of children, and general hygiene and sanitary conditions. We also concentrate on subsequent treatment in health facilities, where we train health professionals and supply medicine to cure malnutrition and other frequent diseases. Last year alone we helped cure acute malnutrition in almost 3,000 children, and our awareness-raising prevention activities reached about 16,000 people.”
PIN also deals with food insecurity in the DRC, local farmers are taught how to cultivate their land to increase yields, and PIN distributes quality seeds and essential farm tools. More than 10,000 people have received trainings (including practical trainings performed on small pieces of land) offered by PIN and its affiliates.
One such farmer, Byenda Bitingwe, 36 says: “I took part in the training in order to learn new agricultural practices.”
Bitingwe lives with her husband and eight children in the eastern part of DR Congo.
“I was also given all seeds I need to secure enough food for my family,” she said.
PIN also aids the DR Congo with access to information about basic rights. The Czech organisation has helped establish 9 mobile courts, full-service legal systems that move from village to village as well as supported education in rural areas since 2008, 65 new classrooms have been built and 90 classrooms have been renovated, enabling thousands of children to attend school.
Despite significant reserves of natural resources, DR Congo has one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, and, according to the UN, years of political instability and conflict have impeded the country’s economic and social development.
“We started our mission in the DRC by helping victims of sexual violence, which remains a commonly-used weapon of the rebels, especially in the eastern part of the country,” says Břehová.
“Still, we continue to work in unstable and remote areas where our help is most needed. Since 2008, our activities and expertise have extended beyond the original mandate. We always try to connect more sectors as they are often closely related, and we are able to achieve better results.”
“Despite a very complex context and a problematic security situation in the country, we can see positive impacts of our still much-needed work, we want to continue helping people in DR Congo. Besides our present goals, we would like to renew our focus in the field of education and enhancing resilience of people and societies affected by sudden crises,” Břehová added.
“Apart from the programmes aimed at justice and enforcement of basic human rights, we would like to support local entrepreneurs and assist in the development of local markets to improve the health of the local economy.”
PIN has been able to operate in DR Congo thanks to the generous support of the Czech public through People in Need’s Club of Friends and the Real Aid fundraising campaign. Institutional help is provided by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), the government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, the UN’s DRC Humanitarian Fund and the UN Development Programme.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.