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12,000 displaced persons benefit from local fairs in Walikale – a new approach by UNICEF and partners to distribute essential items.

© Photo Unicef/RDCongo
Non Food Items Fairs in Walikale : a new approach by UNICEF and partners to distribute essential items

Walikale – Democratic Republic of Congo, 6 November 2009 - Some 12,000 children and their families have benefited from the six Non Food Items fairs organised by the international NGO, SOLIDARITES. These fairs, supported by UNICEF as part of its RRM (Rapid Response Mechanism), were held in areas of new displacement in North Kivu province’s Walikale territory. Walikale has been at the heart of conflicts in North Kivu in eastern DRC. Violent reprisals inflicted by the Front Démocratique de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) on the locals after confrontations with the FARDC, the national army, forced many to flee their homes, leaving with nothing but the clothes on their backs.                        

The fairs are large open air markets organised to assist the recently displaced people with essential goods. Each family received a sheet of 13 coupons worth a total US$60 which they could exchange with merchants for materials and supplies to meet their most pressing needs: clothing, shoes, mattresses, cooking items, or any other item of need or of choice for the family.  It was an occasion to involve all the small and large traders in the area, and to contribute directly to the local economy.

These fairs that were initiated by UNICEF and partners are part of new drive to promote local fairs. It’s a win-win situation for everyone who takes part: the people can pick and choose the items they need most; the humanitarian organizations make great savings on transport and logistics costs especially in landlocked places like Walikale. UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) initiated this “fair” project in the DRC with a project to train other organizations and promote the use of this approach. SOLIDARITES is among the humanitarian organizations that have been trained and supported through the UNICEF-CRS project; as well as other NGO's including Norwegian Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Caritas-Development Goma and AVSI. Since the beginning of this project in March 2009, these partners have organized 36 different fairs across eastern DRC, reaching over 100,000 displaced and returning displaced persons.

“Some zones are inaccessible, and this is what has compelled UNICEF and our partners to adapt, and develop new ways of meeting the needs of these extremely vulnerable women and children, explains Pierette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in DRC. Thanks to these fairs, the women who otherwise find themselves in very difficult situations on account of their displacement are able to exercise their right of choice, both for themselves and on behalf of their families; and more importantly they can do this in a manner that provides them with dignity and respect.”

New displacement areas
Since the beginning of the year, there has been an increase in the number of confrontations between the FARDC and the FDLR. This has led to massive displacements. The conflicts themselves have destabilized the entire region: according to OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 80,000 people are newly displaced in Walikale territory, of whom 50% are children. Most of these families are hosted by local communities, putting pressure on already scarce resources. Walikale is a landlocked territory, where there is limited agricultural activity and which is characterized by mining and commerce for minerals like coltan, tin ore, gold and bauxite. Beside the quarries and mines scattered around the region, there are very few other survival options for the displaced people.

In different parts of North Kivu, displaced families have started to return to their home areas and humanitarian organisations mobilizing programs and activities to help returnees. But about one million persons are still displaced in the province, including 690,000 newly displaced since the beginning of the year, according to OCHA.

« The situation is far from being stabilised in some areas, explains the SOLIDARITES’ RRM coordinator, Marie Le Duc.  Walikale is unfortunately one of the examples that l can cite: we have noted very few people returning during the last 5 months; On the other hand, the number of exactions against civilians have increased, with the result that people have fled towards the settlements along the main roads and the urban centres where they have great difficulty affording the high cost of living.”

With 29 years of humanitarian experience, SOLIDARITES provides aid and assistance to victims of war or natural disaster, in close collaboration with local authorities and in its specific fields of expertise: access to drinking water, distribution of emergency food aid and essential supplies. SOLIDARITES has been working in DRC for over 10 years with a team of 60 expatriate volunteers and 800 Congolese employees. The NGO provides aid for the most vulnerable groups by carrying out emergency programmes followed by reconstruction projects in three regions: Ituri/Haut and Bas Uele, North Kivu and Katanga.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Lucile Malnoury,  SOLIDARITES  Tel : +243 (0)819 500 239; charge.communication@solidarites-rdc.org
Judith Sarano, UNICEF; Tel: + 243 (0)81 830 59 33; jsarano@unicef.org



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