Village Health Works Founder Puts Burundi on the Map

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Deogratias Niyizonkiza, the founder and executive director of Village Health Works in Burundi  was a keynote speaker at the 2013 Global Challenges and Opportunities Conference this past June. Village Health Works is a a Burundi-based 501c3 organization founded on the humane principle that all people, including those most impoverished, deserve access to quality healthcare in a dignified environment.

Deo recently contributed to the Huffington Post, hoping to share Burundi’s story and put his home at the forefront of people’s minds.

He notes,

Few people, however, have heard of my home country Burundi. Historically, Rwanda and Burundi were one and the same. The two eastern African countries share a common history, having been colonized by Germany in 1890 and then Belgium in 1916. Both countries are of similar area, similar geography, and similarly high population.

He goes on to share troubling statistics about the quality of life in Burundi.

Today, people continue to suffer: ten and a half million people live in an area the size of Maryland, and 80 percent of them live on less than a dollar a day. Health statistics are grim: the entire country has only 250 or so trained doctors, one in five children die before the age of 5, and mothers have a 1 in 9 chance of dying in childbirth. The misery, the abandonment, the tragedies, and the suffering in Burundi have become the norm, especially in the aftermath of war.

But it’s the success of Village Health Works that gives him hope.

It was the local community who advocated for change. At the first meeting, everybody I knew who could still walk and talk, from both sides of old ethnic strife, gathered in one family’s compound to take action. The idea of a health center sparked our optimism, which had been extinguished by the horrors we’d lived through.

Read the full piece entitled Bringing Burundi and Its People to the Forefront on the Huffington Post.

Deo speaks at the 2013 Global Challenges and Opportunities Conference

Watch the full speech here (see “From Vision to Reality—The UN Millennium Goals”).