Village Health Works / Burundi

 

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VHW training in Nkau.

In a country torn apart by civil war, extreme hunger and poverty, the village of Kigutu faced crippling disease, poor health, and misery in 2006. In an effort to respond to this crisis of care, Deogratias Niyizonkiza founded the nonprofit organization Village Health Works (VHW) to bring high-quality health care to this rural Burundi community, as well as to address the root of the village's poor health--poverty.

From its very beginning, VHW fostered close ties with PIH. VHW founder Deo met PIH founder Paul Farmer while studying at the Harvard School of Public Health, and he soon began working with PIH's partner organizations in Haiti and then in Rwanda (another country torn apart by genocide and civil war). In 2005, Deo visitied Kigutu, the village where he grew up, for the first time since the violent war forced his family to flee in 1993. Seeing the poverty and dispair paralyzing his childhood home, he resolved to do whatever it took to help, a promise he began to fulfill by founding VHW in 2006.

Although at first skeptical, the village soon became inspired by the VHW vision, forging a vital partnership with between VHW and its community. Empowered by this vision, the villagers began constructing a new health center, brick by brick. Soon, the Kigutu Health Center began providing clinical services to the community, focusing on primary care, pediatrics, and women's health.

Deo turned to his PIH colleagues in neighboring Rwanda for technical support and staff training. And back in the United States, PIH's Boston office continues to provide financial support and serves as a fiscal agent through which VHW can collect donations. Through this partnership, VHW in Burundi became PIH's third supported project and fourth project in Africa. VHW also forged a partnership with the Burundi Ministry of Health and Ministry of HIV/AIDS, as well as several private and intergovernmental organizations with similar missions.

Today, VHW's Kigutu Health Center employs 7 clinical staff and 36 community health workers. VHW provided care for a staggering 16,000 patients in its first 9 months of operation. The Center is now beginning comprehensive services, including treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, and mental health issues. VHW also works to directly treat poverty through community development and education projects. Like PIH, VHW's rights-based approach provides services to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay.

Click here to visit the Village Health Works website.

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