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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Clean water for returnees in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Yves Willemot

Coming home to her village after being displaced by violence, a mother of three benefits from a programme to provide water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as other basic assistance. 

MWENGA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18 September 2015 – “These past months, we suffered a lot to find drinking water. We couldn’t use the water source, because the water coming out was dirty,” says Imani Mukungilwa. “Now, it is repaired, and we are very happy to have good water.”

© UNICEF DRC/2015/Seck
Imani Mukungilwa, 22, at a new water source in her village of Burinyi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Imani, 22, came back to her village of Burinyi six months ago. The mother of three had been forced to flee her home when fighting between rebels and the Congolese army flared in the South Kivu province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“When we heard bombing getting nearer and nearer, we fled,” she says. “On the way, we suffered hunger, got looted and some of us were raped.”

Returnees in Burinyi were lacking almost everything, including safe drinking water, as most water sources in the area are no longer working, and there was no access to latrines or soap for washing hands.

UNICEF partners with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the Rapid Response to Movements of Populations (RRMP) to provide returnee communities with drinking water in the Mwenga Territory. Between July and August, 19 water sources and 17 public latrines were built in the Burinyi area to provide wider access to safe drinking water, as well as hygiene and sanitation for returnees.

“Over 3,000 households benefitted from distribution of soap, cash assistance to build family latrines and five-litre jerrycans for handwashing stations right next to their latrines,” says IRC’s Patrick Biegulu Dunia.

Imani attended hygiene awareness sessions organised by IRC. “They told us that we must wash our hands after using the latrines or before eating or breastfeeding the baby,” she says. “I’ve also received some money, as my father and I had used mud and wood to build our family latrine. My father put hay on the roof, and we have a good latrine now.”

Supporting the community

Imani has also benefitted from a voucher fair organized by the RRMP to allow returnees to choose from a variety of essential household items, paid for with coupons. Unlike the usual distribution, fairs are closed markets where each household can use coupons worth US$75 to buy what they identify as their own needs. Along with providing assistance to families, the fairs are a way to boost the local economy, as the items are sold by local merchants.

© UNICEF DRC/2015/Seck
Imani Mukungilwa receives cash assistance after having built a family latrine in her house in Burinyi.

The RRMP also runs education activities for returnee and displaced children. Kandanda Kitoga, Mukungilwa’s younger sister attends classes organized by UNICEF partner NGO the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) in Kimalanjala Primary school, to catch up with her education. The 13-year-old missed classes while she her family were displaced.

Co-managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNICEF, and funded by several donors such as ECHO, the RRMP is designed to respond quickly to the basic needs of displaced, returnee and other vulnerable host families.

“The partnership with ECHO is a win-win partnership. ECHO contributions to RRMP allow us to give a prompt response when it is most needed by populations,” says UNICEF’s Patrice Vayikalanga. “With the volatile context prevailing in South Kivu, ECHO allows us to have funds and capacities prepositioned, and we intervene in a short period of time.”

In 2014, the RRMP provided assistance to more than 2 million children, women and men, providing support with education, health, essential household items, water, hygiene and sanitation, in the provinces of Katanga, Maniema, Orientale, North and South Kivu. From January to August 2015, 1.3 million people were assisted by the RRMP.

“Now, we have drinking water, family hygiene, soap and a jerrycan to wash our hands. I thank you for the well-being of my children and that of my father at home,” Imani says.



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