Student Led Project in Idjwi, DRC

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, through the Cogan Family Fund for Humanitarian Studies, sponsored a multi-disciplinary group of Harvard graduate students to conduct a comprehensive population-based health needs assessment of Idjwi island.  Idjwi is located in Lake Kivu and presents a unique research environment due to its close proximity to both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries with complex histories of genocide and prolonged conflict. Click here to see key findings of the health assessment.

In the summer of 2010, these seven graduate students from the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design joined a Congolese medical doctor to conduct the health needs assessment, which included the following components:

  • A quantitative survey of 2100 randomized households
  • Ethnographic interviews with 75 women regarding access to health care and experiences of sexual- and gender-based violence
  • An assessment of medical infrastructure, building materials and methods
  • A report of the cultural-political context in which health care planning and delivery occurs
  • A collection of geographic data and production of the first known wall map of the island’s villages, roads, health facilities, and schools

Members of the team are returning to Idjwi in the summer of 2011 to disseminate their findings to local aid organizations and community leaders.

Key Findings of the 2010 Idjwi Island Health Assessment

Conclusions de l'Évaluation Sanitaire de l'île d'Idjwi, 2010


Student Working Papers

"Every Home Has Its Secrets": A Mixed-Methods Study of Intimate Partner Violence, Women's Empowerment and Justice on Idjwi Island, Democratic Republic of the Congo
By Thomas McHale

Fertility and Unmet Need for Contraception on Idjwi Island, DRC
By Dana Thomson

Health & Demographics of Idjwi Island, DRC: Key findings of a multidisciplinary assessment
By Michael Hadley

Additional Information

Idjwi Island: Oasis of Change
By Amy Roeder, Harvard Public Health Review, September 2010

Harvard Without Borders
By Meredith C. Baker, The Harvard Crimson, October 14, 2010


The Team

Thomas McHale (right), Master of Science '11, Harvard School of Public Health. Conducted dozens of interviews and focus groups with women in French and Ki'Swahili. Analyzed sexual and gender-based violence from 100 hours of recordings. Tom's language skills were instrumental in the group's ability to meet with community members and leaders, train the household survey team, and organize travel logistics. Read Thomas McHale's working paper here


Dan Sullivan, Master of Architecture '11, Harvard Graduate School of Design. Interviewed local builders and health care providers, observed building practices, and observed how medical spaces are used on Idjwi. Helping to formulate health infrastructure solutions.


Dana Thomson, Master of Science '11, Harvard School of Public Health. Designed household survey sampling, collected spatial data, created the household survey field map, and created a final wall map of Idjwi at the request of local leaders. Analyzed how high fertility and unmet need for contraception effect Idjwi’s demographics and development. Read Dana Thomson's working paper here.


Michael Hadley (left), Master of Science '11, Harvard School of Public Health. Designed the household health survey, organized the training of over 40 interviewers, and coordinated field operations for the household health survey in 50 communities. Summarized responses to the 2100 household survey and disseminated results to leaders and aid organizations in eastern DRC in 2011. 

Shu-Chuan Tseng, Medical Doctor, Master of Public Health '10, Harvard School of Public Health. Interviewed doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to understand medical practices, challenges, and solutions for health care on Idjwi.

Sunkyo "Sunny" Im (left), Master of Public Policy '11, Harvard Kennedy School. Interviewed dozens of local and regional leaders to understand the political-cultural context surrounding the health care system. Helping to formulate feasible solutions that take account of Idjwi’s many actors.

Marika Shioiri-Clark (right), Master of Architecture '11, Harvard School of Design. Drawing on previous experience designing health facilities in central Africa, interviewed local builders and health care providers, observed building practices, and observed how medical spaces are used on Idjwi. Helping to formulate health infrastructure solutions.