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A Microfinance Intervention to Improve Health of Rape Survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo

National Institute of Minority Health and Health DisparitiesR01MD0060754/1/2010 - 3/31/2013

Nancy Glass

 Nancy Glass
Principal Investigator

Meet the Investigators

Abstract

The United States plays a significant role in global health. It is both the largest funder of innovation in global health and the largest donor to care and support programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The effectiveness and sustainability of these efforts are limited by gaps in knowledge of the role of social determinants, such as poverty, social isolation, chronic stress and trauma, and limited access to health care services has on disparities in health.

The overall goal of the study is to build the science base for large-scale implementation of economic programs to improve the health of women survivors of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). The last decade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has seen the use of rape as a weapon of war, where rebels and soldiers subject women and girls to brutalizing attacks, rape, torture, and mutilation. Survivors of rape are often further traumatized by infections, disease, poverty, stigma and social isolation.

The study objective is to test the effectiveness of an innovative, village-led microfinance program on SGBV survivor's health, household economic stability, and reintegration to family and village. Our preliminary evidence indicates that a village-led microfinance program improves Congolese women's health and household economic stability, through increased funds to purchase food, housing and medication and to pay school fees for children. Survivors also report a reduction in the negative health impacts of chronic stress, stigma and trauma associated with SGBV because they are once again productive family and village members. As a result of our preliminary work, our microfinance-academic research collaboration proposes a five-year experimental trial using mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative techniques).

In this trial, 10 villages in the Ngweshe Chiefdom in the Walungu Territory in South Kivu DRC will agree to participate in the study. We estimate 600 households will be randomized to intervention or wait-list control groups (60 households per village). Outcomes will be measured at the individual and household levels in both intervention and control groups. Measurement of outcomes will be collected multiple times over 18-months.

The study addresses the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) priorities to develop and test structural interventions to reduce health disparities. Research findings will inform the science base for large-scale implementation of structural interventions, with the aim to establish a causal relationship between a microfinance intervention and improved health, household economic security, and reintegration for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and their families.

Public Health Relevance

The study addresses the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) priorities to develop and test structural interventions to reduce health disparities. Research findings will inform the science base for large-scale implementation of structural interventions, with the aim to establish a causal relationship between a microfinance intervention and improved health, household economic security, and reintegration for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and their families.