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Kiva: Using microfinancing to help people in developing countries

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:32pm
Paul Farmer, one of the founders of Partners in Health, describes the ‘great epi divide,’ the epidemiological divide that exists between developed countries and developing countries, between affluent neighborhoods and less well-off neighborhoods, between the haves and the have-nots. Morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases, Farmer notes, correlate well with economic disparities.

HIV/AIDS is no exception. Certainly, HIV can, and does, infect people of all walks of life. Increasingly, though, the HIV burden is highest among developing countries and the poor within developed countries. The reasons for this correlation are many. In economically challenged areas, medical care and treatment often are unavailable or unaffordable. In these areas, access to education may be limited. The list goes on.

One could argue, then, that improving the economic independence of people is the ultimate weapon against the spread of HIV. One group addressing the issue of economic independence in developing countries is KIVA. Kiva, Swahili for ‘agreement,’ is a non-profit organization designed to help people gain economic independence through microfinancing. Individuals can search the Kiva web site for people in Africa, central Asia, eastern Europe, and other parts of the world, who have great ideas, but need some initial capital. Through Kiva, one can make small, interest-free loans to these individuals. In some cases, a few hundred dollars may be all that a person needs to open a small bakery or expand a pottery shop.

The loans aren’t guaranteed; as a donor, you may never be repaid. But the results could be transformative. A little seed money may be all a person needs to become self-sufficient and cross the great epi divide.

Find out more about Kiva and help someone make their dreams a reality.

Until next time, I’m Dave Wessner.
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