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Non Food Items fairs: displaced children and their families to identify their own needs.

© Photo Unicef/RDC

Walikale – Democratic Republic of Congo, - Angaliko breastfeeds her newly born baby while she patiently awaits her turn. This morning, she had chosen to come very early to the fair organized by the international NGO SOLIDARITES and supported by UNICEF. She looks on with interest as the traders set up their stalls; she has already decided what she will choose in exchange for the yellow coupons: two mattresses, some cooking items, plastic boots that she can use during the rains, as well as some clothes for herself and her children. These are essential items for her family.
Just like most of the other women who have come to the fair, Angaliko fled her village a month ago, leaving behind everything she owns. At the time, she was 8 months pregnant, but still had to walk for 3 days before she was crippled by her labour pains. She delivered her baby on the way. Today, she, her husband and all five children live with a local family in the area where she and her family are seeking refuge. She works on her host family’s farm in order to obtain what to eat.

“The FDLR (Rwandan rebels) used to come to our village often to loot our reserves, and leave without too much damage and destruction, she says. This time however, they came in the dead of night, and burnt down everything, after looting and savagely killing some of our villagers. In fact, we’re borrowing all we need from our host family, but they themselves don’t have much. Thanks to this fair, l can pick up some basic items which l will also share with them.”

Helping the most vulnerable
Celine is standing under the shade provided, trying to keep away from the sun. She is a grandmother of 20 grand children, and she is carefully guarding her coupons and the mosquito net she has just received. She’s still puzzled, and is trying to figure out how to use the coupons she’s holding: “these pieces of paper are supposed to have some value, but still it’s not money! She exclaims. The loud speakers begin to boom out the information she wanted to hear – how to use the yellow coupons and also informing that volunteers had been specially selected by SOLIDARITES to assist the most vulnerable with their shopping – the pregnant women, the elderly and the handicapped.

“This is the first assistance that we have received since we fled our village, confirms Celina.  I am so happy to have been given a mosquito net. The insects will no longer be able to devour us at night. With these coupons, l am going to choose the things my family and I need most.”

A vast sensitization campaign began before the fair was held. It was necessary to do so in order to minimize incidents of misunderstanding and jealousy; much time and effort was spent explaining how the most vulnerable households were chosen. The local population and the traders in the area were all informed about the rights of displaced people, and the prices of the items adapted to their vulnerability. “The things here a certainly cheaper than those we buy in town, noted Angaliko. The traders are offering us very good prices here.”

The massive population movement in Walikale in recent months due to increasing insecurity has made even more precarious, the situations of the displaced families and the communities hosting them. Previously unaffected by humanitarian emergencies on such a large-scale, Walikale territory has sadly become a new displacement area as well as a crossroads for providing families with essential assistance.  Mattresses on their heads and bundles filled with new purchases in their arms, Angaliko and Celina return to their temporary homes, happy to have participated in the fair.




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