Blog

22/08/17

Ebola Virus, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Medical news: Ebola in the DR Congo

In May 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a new outbreak of Ebola in northeast DR Congo, sending shockwaves around the globe. The 2014 epidemic in West Africa spread to 10 countries and claimed over 11,000 lives – If the same were to happen in the DR Congo, with its population of 80 million, porous borders and ageing health infrastructure, it would be a catastrophe.

Three months on, the world seems to have forgotten entirely about the announcement, amidst an onslaught of news about war, political turmoil and economic challenges.

The same is to be said on the ground in the DR Congo – the epidemic was no longer a current event just one week after the announcement.

Considering this was a health issue of monumental proportions, how is it possible that no one utters a word about it, and the WHO has not even issued a memo confirming the end of the epidemic?

A long history

In addition to the tumultuous global climate, the answer can be found in the long history that the DR Congo and the Ebola virus share.

Contrary to popular belief, the ”new” Ebola virus that many had heard of the very first time in 2014 has in fact existed in the DR Congo since 1976, with the 2017 outbreak numbering the 8th outbreak the country has experienced since its discovery.

DR Congo actually did experience several cases of Ebola during the 2014 outbreak with 49 reported deaths but this was rarely cited by the media and it was quickly contained.
The prevalence of the Ebola virus in DR Congo, which originates from contaminated wild animals, can be associated with the high proportion of inhabitants living in rural areas (approximately 60%), the thick, nearly virgin rainforests that cover much of the North of the country (the 2nd largest rainforest after the Amazon), and the poor or non-existent health and road infrastructure in the region.

However, over the nearly half century that the country has known this virus, the DR Congo has lost less than 10% of the number that died from the virus in West Africa in the 2014 outbreak alone, at just 811 deaths.

This is in part due to some of the aforementioned reasons for the virus’ prevalence – poor road infrastructure over an enormous geographic area and a lack of large hospitals in rural areas serve to contain the virus, reducing significantly the human contact that caused the explosion of cases in West African metropolises.

Additionally, due to the long history of this disease, the DR Congo is more prepared to handle this disease than any other epidemic or problem it can or does experience, moving in at lightning speed to contain the virus along with the WHO, the USA Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other foreign government organisations with a strong presence in the country.

Looking to the future of health systems and disease-fighting in Africa, it is important to stress the need to collaborate between different nations on the continent, each of whom have intimate experiences and expertise in regards to certain medical challenges.

In the case of the Ebola virus, nations must work together to learn from DR Congo’s extensive rapid response and containment expertise, and to develop a low-cost, high-volume vaccine to make sure that an outbreak the scale of the one that occurred in 2014 never happens again.

That is why the mission of HJ Foundation is the tireless push for quality, accessible medical facilities and healthcare throughout Africa – equality in health is wealth for all.

10/08/17

University of Kinshasa campus

Challenges facing higher education in the Democratic Republic of Congo

After getting my high school degree in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a beautiful small town called Goma in the east of the country, my parents and I decided that I would pursue my higher education abroad. Many countries came to my mind but we decided that I would go to India. Most families send their children to study abroad considering the current situation in the domain of education in our country. Congo is a poor and underdeveloped country that still needs a lot of improvement in the domain of education.

I reached India on 24th of April, 2012 to prepare for the academic year that would start in the month of June of the same year. I spent five years in India. Comparing both countries would be a difficult task for me as we have on one side a developing country which is among the BRICS countries and on the other a country where people starve, have no jobs and have minimal access to education.

Education reform
Congo is a country where the educational system needs a lot of reform both in form and in procedure. Compared to other counties, where students concentrate on one particular subject of their choice making them at the end of the day specialists or experts in that specific domain, in DR Congo, the system gives general knowledge to the students producing workers who have no deep knowledge in a specific field. It’s time to reform the sector to match the international system and create a more competitive workforce.

In today’s busy and changing world, people focus on what is important. In most countries of the world, the university period is limited to 3 years or 4 years. In India, the student will focus on subjects relating to their speciality and will complete the coursework in three years.

This is not the case in DR Congo, where the period of university is can reach up to 5 years. During this period, students go through an unending list of subjects and numerous elements that are, in my opinion, not important, but rather a waste of time and opportunities.

I truly believe that DR Congo needs to improve and adjust the national education system of the country to the modern world. For example, several friends studying in DR Congo mentioned that they use books that had been published in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. In India, we used new books published in the same year and which were even different from the ones of the previous academic year.

Corruption has destroyed the values and ethics of the education in DR Congo. That is why it’s very difficult or almost impossible for those who have studied in Congo and completed their education in the country to prosper outside the country. Thanks to corruption, we have created a vacuum that will never end, where students learn to be corrupt from University and pay money in order to get marks. This mind-set will follow them throughout their lifetime. The attitude of thinking only in a negative way in which things are done easily. The outcome of this is the creation of a future workforce that did not learn the basic lessons of honesty, hardship and trustworthiness. The education system of our country must be based on the idea, “Work to Succeed.”

I truly recommend that the system of education be revised, attracting more people to study in the country and avoid spending a lot of money going abroad. More over the university degree from Congo would have an impact in the world.

This change can only be made possible if the international organizations and NGOs in Congo invest in the system by developing a strategy that would modernize not only the educational system as well as the infrastructure of Universities and schools.

– Wilfred, assistant

24/07/17

The Value of a Smile

How much is happiness worth to you? When contemplating this question, our egos automatically think of ourselves, selfishly. But what about the happiness of others? What is that worth to you?

When we were growing up, we were told over and over that, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35), and yet few of us apply this adage in our daily lives.

When approached regarding charity, many people will avoid giving, be it a financial, material or other type of donation, questioning the perceived value of that donation and asking the ultimate question: “What’s in it for me?”

For those asking, I challenge you: Make a real, impactful donation, then look searchingly into the eyes of that person whose life you have changed, and, in the face of such gratitude, answer this question: what is the value of a smile?

Priceless.

“We make a Living by what we get; we make a Life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill