A little-known but highly effective low-budget United Nations initiative that brings grass-roots aid to thousands of people in small communities around the world is now providing work and food for mothers with badly nourished children in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Supported by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Congregation of the Brothers of Saint Joseph’s Workers trains the women in various trades, in particular the hand manufacture of soap, in a village on the Equator, hundreds of miles up the Congo river from Kinshasa, the DRC capital, and near the spot where 19th century British explorer Henry Morton Stanley placed a large ‘Equator Stone’ near the river bank.
Financed by the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) for little more than $8,000 within the framework of its Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), 5,639 families will benefit from the centre in Iyonda village, 12 kilometres from the Equateur provincial capital Mbandaka, in a region that has suffered heavily from neglect and the now-ended civil war.
The centre has fields of soya and other beans, which make it possible for the women to compensate for the lack of protein in their children’s diet.
QIPs are widely viewed as being among the most effective tools used by UN missions around the world to help local communities at ground level and at low cost, from repairing leaking roofs in schools in Georgia to opening a vocational centre in Liberia to refurbishing sanitation facilities in Burundi.
“The MONUC QIP project is not only fast, but it has a visible impact,” the temporary governor of Equateur province said at the inauguration of the centre earlier this week, noting that it would contribute to reducing poverty and aiding development in the province.
The head of MONUC Mbandaka called for the “good use” of this investment because “used better, it will give to the recipients a new chance in life.” He pointed out the very detailed attention that MONUC always gave to maternal and infant health.