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13 October 2016

DR Kongo: “Helping people only halfway is no way to achieve long-term change.”

Nomen est omen - but the 36-year-old psychologist Miracle Zawadi knows that it takes more than her fortuitous first name to work true wonders. Nonetheless, Miracle has ambitious plans for her work as Expert Adviser for medica mondiale in South Kivu – a position she took up in March. “I want to help the staff at our partner organisations to continue to become more professional and assist them as they use words to heal others,” she says.

For this, she holds training and coaching sessions for the psychosocial workers at the partner organisations. The aim is to strengthen the local support structures, network them and to steadily expand the circle of psychosocial experts. This work has already seen Ms Zawadi travel more than 2,400 kilometres, generally on unpaved roads or by boat.

The demand for psychosocial assistance in the region is very high. For more than 20 years, armed conflict has dominated life in eastern Congo. “Violence has almost become normality for the people here,” explains Ms Zawadi. “However, rape robs the women and girls of their integrity and their opportunities.” Fearing attacks, many avoid travelling any great distance or going anywhere alone. This has an especially negative effect on their education.

According to Ms Zawadi, for those affected by violence, the most urgent needs after psychosocial assistance and security are education and opportunities to generate an income. Although almost every conceivable form of humanitarian assistance is available somewhere, the measures are mostly either one-off or very short-term. “Helping someone along a path, only to leave them standing alone at the halfway point is no way to achieve long-term change,” explains Ms Zawadi, which is why the Congolese specialist is especially appreciative of the sustainable and integrated approach adopted by medica mondiale.

After studying in Burundi, the psychologist worked for various organisations, most recently for the Centre d’Assistance Médico-Psychosociale. With her mobile clinic, she was often underway in the combat areas for months at a time, providing emergency psychosocial relief aid to women and girls who had been raped. She often encountered severely traumatised survivors, so she knows how important it is to take care of herself while providing support for others. This is why she deliberately spends her leisure time with people from other professions. Ms Zawadi sees networking among local women’s organisations in South Kivu as an opportunity for mutual learning and to complement each other’s expertise. Of course, cooperation is not always easy. “Nonetheless, there is a lot of potential available here, which just needs to be developed,” says Miracle Zawadi.