After having been silent for a few weeks, here I am again, just back from a field visit in Kassai Oriental. Those few days have been really busy, with a lot of work to be done, and interesting things in perspective. Save The Children has a big Signatory program in DRC, aiming at having a massive impact on the most vulnerable children’s lives, working in several areas in an integrated way. The first donor of this huge project is GSK, who will be funding child’s health and immunization aspect of this signatory program, as well as a big baseline study, that will be evaluating the situation in the areas Save has chosen to work in, and that will help to best design the program, and ensure we are addressing the communities’ real needs.
So we went to Save The Children’s basis in Mbuji Mayi with a small team of 6 people, with an ambitious goal: designing and budgeting the GSK-funded part of the program, aiming at improving the healthcare and immunization system by training and supporting health zones in Kinshasa and in Kassai Oriental, but also through a big advocacy campaign at the national level, as well as conducting activities to strengthen the immunization system. All those activities have the global goal of improving the healthcare system throughout DRC. Those 3 days of hard work of budgeting, planning and designing the 5 years project have been really interesting. It was also a great opportunity for exchanging knowledge, I have learnt a lot on the challenges and constraints in implementing such a big and ambitious humanitarian project, and I have tried to help the team with my project management skills, as well as with advice on immunization system strengthening in DRC. It was also great to see the big difference GSK can make on the ground, by funding and supporting such projects.
On the weekend, I still found some time to go to a diamonds trading post. The way things happen there is incredible. People and children’s massive exploitation in the mines, trading of diamonds for ridiculous prices, and low export taxes allow massive amounts of rough diamonds to leave the country quite easily. The diamonds are then cut abroad, where they get their certificate. And the city of Mbuji Mayi, massively exporting diamonds, but having no running water or electricity, is full of placards encouraging people (of all ages….) to go in the mines and search for diamonds. The same on the radio and television, where massive advertising for uncontrolled diamonds mining ensure the public media’s revenue….
After those intense days of work, I went to the field, in Mwene-Ditu. I went there for a working session with the field staff on a nutrition project, also a GSK-funded project. The work the team is achieving on the ground is truly amazing. They travel for days in the bush with motorbikes, in really difficult conditions, and they stay in the local communities to mobilize and train communities on health and nutrition issues, to follow up the drugs and therapeutic food deliveries to the health centres, and to collect the monitoring and evaluation data on the project. I coached the team leader on some simple project management tools and concepts to help him following up the project in a more efficient way, and then I led a session with the whole team on risk management for their project. They were very happy with the session, and it was really interesting for me to realize all the issues they are facing on the field…. I was even more impressed by their job! Then, in the evening, it was their turn to coach me on fufu preparation…. And it’s not easy!!
After those busy days, I am back in Kinshasa, where it’s also very busy. I continue working on the design and protocols of 2 studies Save The Children is conduction with the Public Health School of Kinshasa. So I spend a lot of time at the UniKin (Kinshasa University), to work with the research teams on the protocols, but also on the budget for those 2 studies. A lot of discussions, not always easy, but the teams are really motivated and willing to deliver high quality studies, despite a limited budget. So my goal is to have the protocols finalized and budgets approved before I leave, which will be challenging since I only have 2 more weeks of work here,… I can’t believe the end of my assignment is so close, there is still so much to be done!
I’m closing this post with a wise advise, found in a rural area in Kinshasa