How is the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
"People in eastern DRC are now for more than three months displaced and they cannot go back to their homes without fearing for their lives or attacks on their families. More than 200,000 people had to leave in a hurry and could just take a few of their belongings. Most of the displaced are women and children. The number of people seeking refuge in the official camps is increasing, and we can see spontaneous camps being set up. For example, in Katoyi, Masisi, where CARE is implementing an emergency health program, we did a rapid assessment and found a 25 percent increase in arrivals over a seven day period. Some people are hiding in forests or other areas that are difficult to reach. The majority of displaced people have found shelter at a host family. But these host families are now stretched to the limit and both, displaced people and host families, need our immediate help.”
What do people need?
“Host communities and displaced people urgently need food, water and hygiene support as well as shelter to protect them from the upcoming rainy season starting in September. Some areas are already affected by a cholera outbreak, so a swift response in health and hygiene is needed to prevent the disease from spreading and causing more suffering. Human rights violations remain one of the main concerns of CARE and the humanitarian community; and people need protection as well as psychosocial support to handle trauma. Many families have seen and experienced brutal violence, they are scared to go home.”
What is CARE doing to assist?
“CARE has provided cash vouchers to displaced and host families in Masisi, North Kivu to purchase food and essential relief items at the market. We have also distributed plastic sheets to families, who sought refuge in the spontaneous settlements so they can build themselves shelter. In addition, CARE constructs water sources, builds emergency latrines and promotes safe hygiene practices in areas affected by conflict. CARE is aware of the importance of psycho-social support for affected people and has in the past developed an effective community-led approach in which survivors are mutually supported through individual counseling sessions from a trained community counselor. An emergency health project provides medicine and equipment and builds capacity of healthcare providers through training and onsite supervision and support. This way we can ensure that people receive quality health care and we have a specific focus on providing health services to pregnant women and children.”
How can we support displaced people for their return?
“The next agricultural season will start in August-September and people certainly hope to go back to their land by then. They need urgent support to build up their livelihoods and be able to feed their families again. This is particularly important as over 80 percent of Congo’s population relies on agriculture as their main livelihood and source of income. However, in conflicts like this people might find their land and house occupied when they return. The return process must take a highly participative approach that reinforces participatory, transparent governance. Any activities supporting permanent rebuilding and allocation of land should pay special attention to women’s rights and empowerment, as they are frequently sidelined when it comes to land rights. Therefore, we need to think in the long-term; humanitarian assistance must go beyond the provision of food and should support the communities’ capacity to earn an income and strengthen their livelihoods. This can include the distribution of seeds and tools, support in obtaining land for individual and community cultivation and support in improved farming techniques.”
What happens if the security situation does not improve?
“Programs focusing on human rights and support to displaced people should be increased. At the same time, the international community needs to step up international pressure for a reconciliation process to become real and for peace to be more sustainable. The Democratic Republic of Congo, and especially the eastern part of the country has repeatedly experienced conflict and violence. Women, men, girls and boys are continuously displaced, many of them went through unimaginable suffering. It’s time for this violence to stop. People have a right to live in peace and security.”
Aude Rigot is CARE’s North Kivu Provincial Director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.