Democratic Republic Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a large country located in central Africa, has experienced multiple devastating wars and conflicts during its post-colonial era, but what stands out in recent years is a horrific scale of rape and other sexual violence, which has been described as the worst in the world.

In order to help DRC survivors of sexual violence, several local Congolese institutions joined forces:  Panzi Hospital, the Panzi Foundation, and the Evangelical University in Africa (UEA).  These partners currently provide a range of outreach services, including safe houses and reconstructive surgery for injured women, as well as general medical, psychological, legal, economic and educational support. A critical need, however, is to develop psychological support in rural areas, both for women returning home and for the greater community.  Another key component is to conduct project evaluations to ensure the greatest level of impact for the multiple program ideas being introduced.

Several UM faculty members have teamed up to begin addressing some of these needs.  Two main goals of their initiative are to:

  1. Build the capacity for delivery of mental health and psychosocial services throughout South Kivu province.
  2. Foster skill development of investigators at Panzi and UEA for conducting research and program evaluation.

CARRS is pleased to announce that it is providing support for this initiative.  The CARRS support will allow UM researchers to return to Bukavu, DRC in 2013 to continue building the program initially envisioned in February 2012 during an initial on-site visit with their Congolese partners.  UM and other mental health specialists will work closely with the psychologists and nurses trained as social assistants at Panzi Hospital to foster improved mental health care in rural areas.   UM researchers will also work closely with Panzi and UEA leadership in building next steps for their new research center, with the mental health project being a projected high priority pilot project for program evaluation, as envisioned in the February 2012 meeting.  The research center aims to build the skills and support needed to conduct the research, to foster rigorous evaluation of new programs, and to ensure that adequate evidence-based decision-making is at the core of eventual full implementation.

UM’s role will be centered on technical assistance.  It is expected that this project will further strengthen UM engagements in Africa and add to the ranks of UM scholars and graduate students with expertise in global work, and in this case in a context with greater than normal complexities and challenges.