ECI News

News from ECI, May 2020

Hello hello!

Dear ECI family,

Although the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, I feel a sense of cautious hope. Here in Virginia it is springtime, and the rainy season is coming to an end on the shores of Lake Kivu. These are seasons of renewal. 

Our efforts to combat COVID-19 in eastern Congo continue unabated — and the potential for more infections and deaths is never far from our minds and our plans. But these days I can see more clearly than ever how the Congolese people are responding to the crisis with creativity and brilliance. This month’s newsletter includes some shining examples. 

All my best to you and your families! Stay safe, be well, and celebrate the goodness you see around you. 

Yours truly,

Abraham Leno
Executive Director, ECI


Update: Coronavirus in DRC

Congo’s response to the coronavirus pandemic appears to be effective. Since March 10, sixty-one people have died from COVID-19 in Congo, among about 1,800 confirmed cases. South Kivu has confirmed only four cases in total, and zero fatalities have been reported so far. In the past few days, North Kivu has seen an uptick in confirmed cases, and the provincial government responded quickly to control additional infections. 

We have been continuing to provide weekly briefings on the COVID-19 response in North and South Kivu for our friends at the USAID mission in Kinshasa. You are welcome to read them here: bit.ly/eci-covid19-briefings.

As always, ECI leadership are in daily contact with our staff, and all ECI managers are in daily contact with their coworkers, collaborators and communities. And as always, the safety of our staff and our communities is our most pressing concern, every single day.


What’s new

Our partners

  • Trust and agility help HEAL Africa save lives. Our partners at HEAL Africa quickly adapted their existing Ebola programs to address COVID-19. They have been working with religious leaders to spread the word about prevention all around North Kivu, and the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma is already prepared to receive serious COVID-19 cases, if the need arises.
  • Dr. Mukwege’s leadership continues. You know that ECI’s dear friend Dénis Mukwege, director of Panzi Hospital and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is heading the provincial coronavirus response task force in South Kivu. In this capacity, he is urging responsible public leadership to prevent a tragic surge in new infections — and he is calling on the Congolese government to stop the violence that continues to hamper response efforts in North Kivu. ECI is proud to stand with Dr. Mukwege, now as always. 

Social enterprise

  • Seven women wearinng white aprons model beautiful fabric facemasks.
    Women in the dressmaking program at Un Jour Nouveau model fabric masks they have made. Photo: UJNN

    The most beautiful masks in the world. This month, women in the dressmaking program at Un Jour Nouveau turned a $500 grant into 50,000 coronavirus masks (and more). It’s an inspiring reminder of the lifesaving power of social enterprise in a time of crisis. Read the story here, and be sure to watch the beautiful video at the end. 

  • The Asili team remains vigilant. At the front lines of public health in South Kivu, ECI’s Asili team continues to monitor the pandemic and educate members of the community about how to stay safe. As the pandemic appears to be slowing in South Kivu, we believe it’s time to increase our preventative measures to prevent a dangerous surge in cases in the coming weeks. 

Strengthening markets

Coming soon: big news for coffee co-ops and coffee lovers. We can’t say much yet, but six different coffee cooperatives from across South Kivu are partnering with a major global coffee company to launch a new single-origin coffee. Limited sales of the new coffee should begin soon, depending on the progress of the pandemic, and we are hoping coffee lovers worldwide will be enjoying the saveur du Kivu by the middle of 2021. Stay tuned for more.


  • In Washington, ECI fights for pandemic relief. This month Ben, Whitney and Abraham sent letters to the House and Senate committees that will appropriate foreign-aid money in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Together with our friends in Washington, ECI leaders are working to convince Congress that the coronavirus pandemic can and must set American humanitarian aid on a new and more sustainable course — just as ECI is already doing in eastern Congo. 
  • ECI brings Congolese wisdom to a world in crisis. This month ECI leaders have been sharing the wisdom of the Congolese people to help the rest of the world respond to the pandemic with dignity and humanity. Abraham published a series of articles called “How to Survive a Disaster” on the ECI blog, and condensed the series for a guest column in the Boston Herald, one of Ben’s hometown newspapers. Stay tuned for more. 


How you can help

  • Interact with ECI on social media. We’re on Twitter, Instagram, and now Medium. Your comments, likes, retweets and reposts are the easiest and most direct way to spread the word of our work.
  • Give us your feedback. As we find our voice as an organization, we need the help and guidance of our friends and family. If you have ideas for our social media, our blog, or our communications in any way, we want to hear them. Send your ideas directly to the comms team at info@easterncongo.org, or just reply to us on the social networks. ◼