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SOCIAL WORK IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO By Lucio KIKUNI KANGELA Congo [email protected] Hope Africa University (Social Work) Counselor for street children for the Hope and Health Vision Organization www.hopeandhealthvision.org Summary: This paper describes the importance of social work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the challenges and the effects to the population. I describe the status of social work at universities, hospitals, and churches, and community interactions with the international and local NGOs involved with the welfare of the Congolese population. Country Background: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, commonly referred to as DR Congo, Congo Kinshasa or the DRC, is a country located in central Africa. With a population of over 71 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country. The war in the DRC is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. The War began in 1998, and devastated the country. The war is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because nine African nations were involved along with more than twenty armed groups. Fighting continues in the eastern part of the country. Social work in the university: DRC has more than 600 Universities, but social work programs covering the DRC are virtually nonexistent. In DRC, we have only the sociology program at some universities. Given its origins in the Anglophone countries, social work programs developed in many universities from the Anglophone rather than the Francophone system. The program of social work is of great importance in the DRC. Young students gain a theoretical understanding of society, and the skills to ensure that they can actually help people. Young students are expected to understand how their Christian values and social work education can be integrated, in order to influence their professional experiences. We have the sociology program at the: • Official university of Bukavu • University of Kisangani “UNIKIS” Even if we do not typically have formal social work programs, in practice the Democratic Republic of Congo offers social services which are provided to society by other people, who are not professionals in the social work field, such as: • Doctors • Nurses • Sociologists • Agronomists Psychology service is almost nonexistent. Many Congolese students would like to study social work at university but they don’t find a place or university to do so. However, some students, who have financial support, go to Burundi, a country neighboring Congo, to study at HOPE AFRICA UNIVERSITY, a bilingual French and English university supported by the U.S.A. (The Free Methodist Church). It is the only university which has that program in Burundi. Other students, who have a lot of money, may go to NAIROBI, Kenya, the country from which almost all our lecturers are coming. Some other students think that if you study social services, you can work only in the International Associations, where they will earn much money. Social work in the social environment in the DRC: According to Bantu Philosophy (Bantu is the plural form of Muntu, which mean person), "The muntu is only strong beside his brother." To be beside one’s brother means to listen, to share difficulties, as well as to share happy moments with people with whom one lives. Unfortunately, most people who are practicing social work related activities are focusing more on economic issues than on the therapeutic or counseling issues which typically are more needed by people. Who does social work in DRC? Social work in the hospital In DRC, social service provision in hospitals is almost non-existent. There typically are no available services or people who can serve as intermediaries between the patient and his family, for instance to educate clients and families about diseases that may be hereditary or about managing treatments favorably. Furthermore, since the country is currently in a political crisis related to the war, there are many raped women who require social service and psychosocial support that they are missing due to lack of services. However, we welcome very much the work of Dr. Denis Mukwenge, the Manager of Panzi Hospital in South Kivu province. After two years at UNIKIN “University of Kinshasa” Faculty of Engineering, The doctor finally found his way to the medical school, where he enrolled in Burundi in 1976. He had his medical degree in his pocket in 1983. In 1984, he won a scholarship to specialize in gynecology at the University of Angers in France. In 1989, he decided to return to DRC to take care of Lemera hospital, where he became medical director. Despite low wages compared with Europe, he spent happy years there, where he helped thousands of infertile women to experience the joy of motherhood. Furthermore, he told the world about the terrible sexual barbarism against women in eastern Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war. To cope with this epidemic, he has specialized in the care of women victims of rape. This support of women victims of sexual violence is holistic. It covers areas such as the physical, psychological, economic and legal dimensions. On the medical side, he is recognized as one of the world's authorities on fistula. It is for this reason that he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Umeå (Sweden) in October 2010. On 25 October 2012, Mukwege was assaulted as he headed to his house in the center of Bukavu. The guardian of his house was shot at close range after alerted to the danger, and his car was burned. Mukwege was tied up, but the locals came to his rescue and he is safe and sound, and is currently in Europe with his family. Local associations There are many local associations in the DRC which provide various services to the Congolese people. I don’t know where or how the Congolese people would be if the local and international Associations could not be there. The local associations are the ones who work to raise awareness of the various pandemics, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The associations also focus on family planning, micro-finance projects, and project developments in local communities. They also play an important role in the fight against social injustice. Communication channels between the community and the government, or between different International NGOs and local associations, also sometimes help members find good jobs in International NGOs. The greatest challenges often encountered by local associations are the need for: • Donors • Qualified persons for direct action • People who are trained to provide care. A CASE STUDY OF HOPE AND HEALTH VISION I would like to describe an example of one local organization with which I am quite familiar. HOPE AND HEALTH VISION, of which I’m a co-founding member, and in which I work as a social worker, has several aims, including: - Fighting against Addiction in the Youth centers - Bringing psychosocial care to street children/ orphans and people suffering trauma resulting from rape and war violence. -Creating new occupations, and supervising and training disadvantaged young people through exercise of knowledge and self-esteem. The history of the foundation by JEAN MARIE BAZIBUHE The African Great Lakes region faces many challenges. It must restore its tarnished status which has resulted from the various crises of recent years (such as war, poverty, famine, and disease) and make up for lost time. How did I get the idea for the foundation? After spending a few years as a midshipman at the Xaverian missionaries, and after receiving spiritual and philosophical training with Catholic priests, especially Fathers Bernard and Oberlin and Sisto da Rold, and after reading the life stories of Mother Teresa and Gandhi, I realized that the life and the dignity of humanity is worth more than gold. The times of war I have known and lived through in the Great Lakes region have taught me that the loss of a loved one is a terrible tragedy. I have seen children lose their parents. I have seen many people who are traumatized and who try to escape by abusing drugs. This is why I decided not to keep silent against the misery of my brothers. I conceived the idea for the first time in 2008. I served quietly rejected children I met in the streets. By 2010, I found two friends interested in and committed to the project, Julien MUNGANGA and Lucio KIKUNI, and we formed the idea of enforcing the rights of the poor by creating an association. On 10 April 2011 the dream came true, and Hope and Health Vision (HHV) was born in order to give Hope for a better future for young children and for vulnerable people. Organizationally, in terms of structure, there is a management team that coordinates the activities of the Association. It is made up of founding members: President: BAZIBUHE coordinator John Vianney Vice President and Executive Secretary: Julien MUNGANGA. Treasurer (responsible for finance): Lucio Kikuni. Next, comes a team of 27 active members (with 12 people in Burundi and15 for DRC ) International NGOs and their services International associations offer valuable services to the Congolese people. Most of them work in humanitarian, health and educational services. They typically focus upon: • Food needs. • health care access needs. • needs related to accessing schooling and decent housing. As in the 2011 annual report on the HDI, UNDP has estimated that more than 71percent of the Congolese population live on less than a dollar a day. Poverty affects the whole country and all social classes, with very marked inequality. But there is an attempt to minimize international NGOs and the services they offer to the people of the DRC. Currently international organizations typically come to provide social work services. Given the conditions of war, and the poverty of the country, if you want, there are opportunities for participation in the programs conducted by some NGOs, including: Literacy Job training Psychosocial support for women who have been raped, child soldiers, etc. Every time there is training offered, you must offer something to eat and a sum of money towards the end of the training. If you do not, fewer people will participate. For those of us currently engaged as agents of change, as “social workers,” we always try to think about the value and importance of our actions in this community and how they will be useful for individual and community well-being. However, the situation in Congo may already be described as a disease, and to cure such a disease will take a little time, and require a lot more sensitization in different communities. The social worker and Churches The Roman Catholic Church is largely dominant in DRC, with 50 percent of the population Roman Catholic. Protestant churches represent about 20 percent of the population, and are described by various local names. The Kimbanguist represent about 10 percent of believers, and Muslims, who are mainly located in the east of the country, are about 10 percent of the population also. Churches play a major social role in the DRC. They control the majority of social services functioning at: • schools • hospitals, and • clinics In a country with difficult living conditions, such as the DRC, people live in constant tension and stress. Something is needed to temper the psychological and social heat, and to prevent social disorder or revolt. Conclusion The objective of this article is to describe some of the social challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to provide a better future for the people of the Congo. The future here greatly depends on improving the standard of living and children’s education. Children and youth represent the future. One solution may be to focus on the problem at its foundation, and to try to understand and to help the people resolve the various social problems they encounter. Social work, and psychology, can help greatly in this respect, leading to significant improvements in the living conditions of the Congolese population. Recommendation To our Government: Make peace in the country Assist raped women with psychological and medical care; assist those children resulting from rape; help such groups to get education and healthcare for free; and assist all communities who are victims of war, without discrimination based upon ethnicity Open social work departments at the universities. To the international community who loves DRC Help to establish peace in our country (for instance, like some people in the international community are doing in this period in the case of M23 rebels in North Kivu). We are very thankful to the international community for their actions related to peace-building in DRC. Financially support the micro projects of local organizations in the DRC Help us with various opportunities (such as funding, scholarships, and trainings) for establishing and expanding the profession of social work in the DRC To our readers: You are invited and welcomed to invest in different communities in the DRC, and to collaborate with local organizations and international NGOs for the well-being of the country.