The New province of Ituri (formerly District of Ituri) is found in the North Eastern part of the country, and embraces 5 territories of Irumu, Mambasa, Djugu, Mahagi and Aru. The province has suffered devastating effects of the civil wars from the 1990's to early 2000's, leaving behind a trail of devastating consequences. Poverty screams out loud. According to world bank 2015 report, despite a decrease in the poverty rate, from 71% to 64% between 2005 and 2012, the DRC still ranks among the poorest countries in the world, at position 176 out of 187 countries, on the most recent Human Development Index calculated by the UN (2015).
Most of the people depend on farming for survival, while the Gold mines in the territory of Djugu have lured youth in search for survival, exposing them to the high risk of acquiring HIV. According to CDC, HIV Prevalence (Ages 15-49) is estimated at 0.8% (2015). Women and children suffer most from the scourge, with little access to medical care and poor nutrition making the situation worse.
AVEC is a savings and credit scheme, one of 3 initiatives facilitated by the CECA20 church in the country, with the purpose of improving the health and care of pregnant women living with HIV and AIDS in Rethy, Kpandroma and Uketha. The micro finance was initially established for pregnant women (15 - 49) with special focus on women living with HIV, but was opened up to the wider community to combat the stigma and discrimination that came with the closed group. The Micro finance was established in partnership with COCANet and Tear Fund is meant to provide the target group with the opportunity to run small income generating projects that avails disposable income to its members which will consequently improve the standard of living among the population. Each of the established groups is expected to birth 5 extra groups per group, making a total of 250 groups of 25 members each, within the next 3 years and 8 new groups per group within the period of 5 years. Each group is allowed to enroll up to 25 more people beyond their initial membership. Consequences from the devastating civil war, has created a renewed spirit of determination among the people of Ituri to gather the pieces and work together towards improving the standards of living among its people. Money is a much-required resource, yet very scarce among the population, without which many ideas and plans are crippled. The overall objective of AVEC is to economically and socially improve the health of pregnant women living with HIV in Rethy, Kpandroma and Uketha within the period of 5 years (2017 - 2021), through increased access to sustainable financial services, and increased productivity for sustainable change. It is hoped that the success of the scheme will pave way for the establishment of a legalized financial institution that would be able to provide a more diverse range of financial services. This would become the first Banking system in the area. With the help of Tear Fund, the members of AVEC in Uketha have been able to build a maternity center to cater for the pregnant women in the area. Pregnant women had to previously travel several kilometres to Kpandroma or Rethy to give birth, or be attended to by a local traditional birth attendant. The project hopes to address the challenges of inadequate income to boost member investments in Income Generating Activities. Sufficient revolving income will go a long way in aiding members in the establishment of meaningful and profitable income generating activities, school fees for their children, manage health among pregnant women and infants, and curb the high rate of unemployment among out of school youth. The project intends to develop policies that oblige each member of AVEC to i) Own a garden and grow a cash crop, nutritious food crop and vegetable, ii) enroll and sustain all their children school going in school, iii) contribute a minimum stipulated amount for health insurance
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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is richly endowed with natural resources that include Cobalt estimated at 45% of the world's deposits, Diamond 25% of all global diamond reserves, and the tenth largest reserves of Gold and Oil among other natural resources (African Development Bank, African Development Fund, "Democratic Republic of Congo: 2013 -2017 Country Strategy Paper," June 2013). With rich arable land, agriculture resources include a wide range of fruits grown across the country, food and cash crops. Despite being considered one of the richest countries in the world in natural resources, and the tremendous economic potential, the majority of the country lives in abject poverty. Only 10% of over 80 million hectares of farmland is being used. The 2014 Human Development Index placed DRC at 186 out of 187 countries, even after over 55 years of independence. Much of the country's infrastructure has been destroyed by war, with the majority of its roads being impassable. The Democratic Republic of Congo's economy has been left in ruin by continued civil war in many parts of the country.
Poor nutrition, HIV and AIDS related Stigma and discrimination, Insecurity due to previous wars, households live under less than $1 day, Increasing the risk of acquiring HIV and AIDS among youth, High rate of school drop outs, early child marriages and general poor health among the community.
Association Villagoise d' Epargne et de Credit (AVEC), has a total of 1250 members targeting HIV Positive and their Families to Improve livelihoods of the people of Rethy, Kpandroma and Uketha through promoting economic empowerment schemes that in turn have an effect on health and education in the communities.
The Micro Finance is the first functional 'banking and saving system' of its kind in this geographical area, that comes with obligations for its members to promote Education for children, Improve maternal and infant health through health insurance, promote nutrition while supplementing household income through improved farming methods.
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Economic empowerment - Its expected that there will be an increase on the average income for every member of the scheme that will b) facilitate Improved health among women (living with HIV and AIDS), together with their children. There will also be a reduction in pre-and post-natal infant deaths resulting from AIDS and other common and prevailing diseases in the area.
With increased income and improved health, it's expected that more children enrolled into and sustained in school. The program also intends to make it an obligation for members of AVEC to have their children in school.
With the youth and general population busy in incoming generating schemes, its expected that security in the area will be heightened. Also the nature of the scheme pulls in people from different tribes and it is hoped that this will facilitate bonding contributing to improved working relations among the previously warring tribes in the area, and engagement of youth into money making activities for idle youth, ultimately improving security in the area.
Improved and a scale up of farming practices. The program intends to introduce and encourage modified farming methods.
Reduction in Gender based Violence as a result of the Economic empowerment, improved health, Education and better use of time.
The program will directly and indirectly contribute towards lessor incidences of HIV