Essential household items for more than 24,000 Internally displaced families
Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 26 December 2012 - 20 km outside of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu province, Bulengo Internally Displaced Persons site is bustling with families waiting to receive what will assist them during their displacement. The camp is one of five sites that have swollen with new arrivals since the recent upsurge in violence in the region. North Kivu province has been the site of relentless fighting for over a decade. Most recently an estimated 24,000 families fled their homes to find refuge in transit sites or with other host families. Many of these families were already displaced living in displaced person sites or with families and were being displaced yet again
Most of the displaced population left their previous home or a place of refuge quickly with few belongings. For the initial days, many were forced to sleep in makeshift shelters. The improvised shelters are little protection from the frequent seasonal rain, especially during the night. “Many still lack proper shelter to keep themselves dry and warm” said Barbara Bentein, UNICEF Representative in DRC. “When children get wet and cannot change their clothes, they become more at risk of falling sick and suffering from infectious diseases such as pneumonia.”
Back in September, Febe Bushu fled her home in Pinga some 80 kilometres north of east of Walikale in North Kivu. “We left Pinga because of the war. Everyone was fleeing” she says. Febe and her family walked for a full two weeks, constantly being pushed south by fighting before they reached Goma where they found a temporary refuge in a host family. But two weeks ago she and her family had to leave yet again - the host family simply didn’t have enough to feed everyone. “The family had nothing at all, so we felt it was best to leave.”
Bulengo is the newest site where displaced have found refuge around Goma and also one of the largest one, with 6,430 families who live there. Tariq Riebl, humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam in DRC for says ”those who live here are a mix of people from Kanyaruchinya, Sake, Masisi and they have all come for different reasons. Some of them because of the fighting between the M23 armed group and the government army, some of them because of clashes caused by other militias in other parts of the North Kivu. The needs are intense because all of them have fled conflict, and all of them have suffered from the trauma of having to move, often several times”
A one-of-a-kind joint effort
The mass distribution of relief kits to assist families like Febe’s, is the largest operation to occur in North Kivu in recent years. UNICEF coordinated the operation that involved 13 local and international Non-Governmental Organization as well as sister U.N. agencies to achieve this operation including AIDES, AVSI, Care, Caritas Goma, Concern Worldwide, Handicap International, IOM, IRC, NRC, Oxfam GB, Première Urgence, Save the Children, Solidarités International, OCHA, UNHCR and UNOPS. The distribution was made possible with support from a variety of donors including the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO), the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the CERF and Pooled Fund Common Humanitarian Funds and the governments of Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Sweden. On the ground more than 210 staffs have been steadily working to ensure that the relevant families received their kit before Christmas.
“I received a kit today,” says Febe with a smile. “The tarp will help cover my tent. I’ll be protected from the sun and I won’t have to hear all the noise outside. Cooking pans also mean I can cook by and that’s really important.” The relief kits of ten essential items contain amongst other things plastic sheeting, blankets, sleeping mats, clothing, a wash basin, a jerry can, a kitchen set and soap bars.
Lingering tense security situation
“People arrived in Bulengo two to three weeks ago” says Ulrich Wagner, UNICEF Emergency officer in Goma. “Insecurity delayed the distribution. Now we aim to be as quick as possible to get these kits to the families as long as the security allows it.” The calm that prevailed over Christmas allowed UNICEF and its partners to intervene swiftly, undertaking a census and registration of families in preparation for the distributions. Ultimately, over 1,000 tons of supplies were simultaneously distributed in multiple sites to more than 24,000 displaced families over the course of four days.