OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Building Healthy Communities in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

By providing mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, HAI will help communities affected by violence in South Kivu to heal.

Photo of Mario Amaya
2 2

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Over the past six years, Heartland Alliance International (HAI) has been working with communities affected by violence in the DRC’s South Kivu province, providing mental health and psychosocial support services. HAI’s MHPSS programming uses a trauma-informed approach that recognizes that the effects of trauma are multi-faceted; are mediated by individual, family, and community factors; and can impact individuals’ psychological well-being, physical health, spiritual beliefs, and ability to care for themselves and their families and participate in community life. HAI also recognizes that trauma has impacts on family, community, and society and that effective trauma-informed approaches need to consider interventions at these levels. Although HAI’s work is robust, South Kivu communities experience numerous challenges in accessing these MHPSS services. Barriers include a lack of transportation access, the lack of economic resources, poor communication systems, and recurrent violence. HAI believes that technological solutions could be instrumental in multiplying the number of beneficiaries reached through its MHPSS programming. HAI envisions bringing psychologists to beneficiaries’ houses digitally, in order to address a number of the access barriers these individuals face. Digital access would enable psychologists to reach a higher number of people and to provide services over a sustained period, which would maximize the benefits of mental health treatment. Through its work in the field, HAI has witnessed the negative effects that untreated mental health conditions have in South Kivu communities, including weakening the social fabric and rendering community members more susceptible to recurrent conflict and ingrained poverty. By addressing the MHPSS needs of affected communities in South Kivu, HAI believes that it will contribute to building stronger communal foundations, allowing community members to flourish and achieve peace and prosperity in their surroundings.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The project’s beneficiaries are community members in the South Kivu province of Eastern DRC that receive healthcare through the Kaniola and Nyantende Health Zones, and are in need of MHPSS services. Data from previous projects implemented by HAI shows that individuals go to district hospitals when seeking emergency or tertiary care and to community health centers when seeking primary care. Upon receiving care, individuals do not return to hospitals unless they have another emergency or tertiary health need, posing a problem for continuity of MHPSS services, unless services are provided at a community level. HAI’s approach to this problem was to place psychologists in community health centers, where individuals are more likely to return.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

HAI is the lead implementer of MHPSS programming in South Kivu. Although other organizations provide emergency response in IDP camps and in other humanitarian emergencies, HAI is the only MHPSS service provider that conducts outreach to the hardest-to-reach communities in the province. Through its experience implementing projects in South Kivu over the last six years, HAI has become familiar with the main barriers communities face in accessing services, and has a number of strong relationships with key stakeholders who are instrumental in the implementation of health programs in the country. HAI’s psychologists are community members themselves who have been working in the relevant communities for years, having built rapport with fellow community members and thereby becoming well acquainted with the communities’ needs. Globally, HAI is also a lead implementer in MHPSS programming, and is an expert in addressing concerns related to access while maintaining beneficiary confidentiality.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Across the world, when human rights are threatened, Heartland Alliance International works to restore them by providing specialized mental health care and access to legal services to improve well-being and restore justice for marginalized people and communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

DRC is a country that has been affected by continuous conflict for decades. Through its close work with communities in South Kivu, HAI has identified individuals who have been deeply impacted by this conflict and who have shown courage and resiliency amidst numerous challenges. HAI believes that with appropriate care, these individuals can rebuild their lives and their communities and find lasting stability.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

A dictatorial government, resource-deprived opposition movements, and ongoing ethnic conflicts all contribute to the fragile state of Peace in the DRC. The country has been in conflict for many years, resulting in generations of individuals who have never experienced true Peace and must now contend with a series of unmet needs due to repeated conflict and the lack of infrastructure. Vulnerable communities continue to be susceptible to unrest and conflict. Collectively, these realities contribute to stagnation and poverty, and diminish Peace and Prosperity in the DRC. HAI maintains that activities that contribute to Peace building in DRC, such as increasing access to MHPSS services, will better position community members to seek Prosperity. As communities achieve Prosperity, HAI anticipates that local infrastructure will become increasingly robust and render community members less susceptible to conflict and unrest.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

HAI anticipates that the Health Administration in the DRC will be engaged in the project, as their collaboration is instrumental to the development of any project related to health in the country. The Health Administration is mainly involved in providing access to facilities and in granting permission for projects to take place in their respective health zones. In the past, the Health Administration has collaborated with HAI on project design and in determining which health zones are most important to prioritize in our work. HAI’s proposed collaboration with the Health Administration will increase the project's prospects for success by securing government buy-in.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The communities in which HAI works in the DRC have a strong sense of belonging, and have demonstrated high levels of resiliency. These well-established communities have occupied the same geographical areas for years, and have deeply ingrained roots in these areas. These communities have also survived repeated conflicts and trauma, finding a way to moving forward.

Geographic Focus

South Kivu province, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sub-Saharan Africa

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

HAI anticipates implementing this project over 36 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)



Join the conversation:

Photo of Adisa Adeniyi

@Mario, I have gone through your project. Good job, can you add picture to your project?

Photo of Mario Amaya

@Adisa, thanks for your suggestion! I've added a photo to the project from South Kivu. Thank you!