CTPH empowers more VHCTs through trainings in the Mt. Tshabirimu and Mikeno Sector in DRC

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the oldest national park in Africa: Virunga National Park. A quarter of the remaining mountain gorillas live in Virunga and CTPH programs are already making a positive impact on human health and wildlife conservation in the DRC. Our programs have been in operation in the DRC since 2008 beginning with wildlife health monitoring and livestock programs. In 2010 we added our Community Health Program to train Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) to promote sanitation and hygiene, family planning and conservation activities. In June and July 2016, we held two trainings of VHCTs—one in Mount Tshiaberimu, North Virunga National Park and one in Mikeno sector, South Virunga National Park.

This project is ongoing, thanks to the funding from Global Development Network (GDN) Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) to scale up the award-winning CTPH community health model from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to Virunga National Park. The success of our model is due to the hard work of the community volunteers we train. During our two trainings in the DRC more than 80 volunteers were trained to promote behaviour change and to collect health and conservation data.

CTPH Programs Officer in DRC Dr. Mavisi Joseph based in Mt. Tshabirimu, Diouf Gato the project officer for the Mikeno sector and Alex Ngabirano from Bwindi led the trainings. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences of the work being done in their community including households visits; promoting sanitation and hygiene; encouraging clean kitchens; collecting community health data; referring people to local health centres, especially if suspected of TB; promoting family planning, antenatal care and child immunizations; encouraging households to have separate animal houses and sensitizing communities to sustainable uses of park resources. Through trainings, CTPH realized an urgent health need in the community was hand-washing facilities outside latrines. Our program officers educated VHCTs on how easily germs can pass from latrine to household but by simply washing hands deadly diseases can be stopped. We will continue to monitor communities in the coming months to encourage and ensure better, cleaner latrine facilities.

VHCTs learned more about wildlife conservation; especially around the mountain gorillas that are often spotted on private land destroying crops especially banana plants. CTPH educated the VHCTs to always call the Human-Gorilla Conflict resolution volunteers (HUGOs) when they or one of their community members sees a gorilla on their land in order to minimize any conflict and potential spread of disease. CTPH will adapt materials used by VHCTs in Bwindi for use in the DRC, including tools for VHCTs to teach their own communities about how to live healthy productive lives while also conserving the mountain gorilla. Furthermore, many communities have taken the initiative to plant trees on their land—promoting the sustainability of the forest they, and the gorillas, call home.

Finally each of the trainings introduced the VHCTs to CTPH’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) program. The VHCTs will lead VSLAs to create incoming generating projects that will sustain the program beyond donor funding. Already some income generating projects exist for example the one in DRC that targets training vulnerable women to make soap, sew and run agriculture projects. VHCTs were encouraged to incorporate such existing projects into VSLAs for sustainability.

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