From Japan to Central Africa, caring for mothers and children
Kinoshita in the field in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I n the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where about 250,000 people were displaced in a matter of months after violence flared between rebel fighters and government forces in August, Rinko Kinoshita is using the master’s degree in public health that she earned with help from The Rotary Foundation.
Working with UNICEF in the border community of Goma, Kinoshita is aiding those who have fled the conflict. She works mostly with women and children, including orphans and child soldiers.
Kinoshita got her start as a midwife in Japan. While she was studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on an Ambassadorial Scholarship, an internship took her to Malawi, where she worked with Save the Children on a project to reduce neonatal mortality. “I fell in love with the culture,” she says.
In 2003, she returned to Africa. In Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo, she worked with pregnant women to assess HIV/AIDS and malaria interventions. Studying risk behaviors, she traveled to maternity hospitals to train and supervise counselors who were providing education on HIV testing. In another project, she examined the effects of teaching birth attendants about neonatal mortality; in some parts of the Congo, 65 percent of babies are born without the help of a trained birth assistant.
“What has motivated me to stay in this country is that I want to see even a very small visible change,” she says. “I want to feel that my work is contributing somehow to make changes to development or people’s health or their lives. That has been very difficult for me because of the degree of problems. There’s huge need in this country.”
- Alum: Rinko Kinoshita
- Program: Ambassadorial Scholarships
- Years: 2001-02
- Location: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
- Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Iida, Japan
- Hometown: Achi, Japan