July 23, 2024
Democratic Republic of the Congo: the ongoing emergency in Rutshuru
– By Godswill Odiong

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The humanitarian crisis triggered by clashes between the Congolese army and fighters from the March 23 Movement (M23) in Rutshuru territory, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continues to be a cause for concern. At sites providing shelter to displaced people, the scale of need remains vast. A number of humanitarian organizations are responding to the dramatic situation. At the end of December, the International Committee of the Red Cross distributed food to 47,950 people and cash aid to 44,910 people.

Kamyaruchinya, in Nyiragongo territory, North Kivu province, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As in all of our operations, we focused on listening to and engaging with communities affected by the conflict to better understand their needs, vulnerabilities and capacities, as well as to hear what they viewed as priorities, in order to respond to them. Our teams interacted with displaced families before, during and after the distribution of food. This transparent communication enabled us to provide aid to meet the real needs of people affected by the security crisis in Rutshuru territory.

Many of the families who had moved to the camp in Kanyaruchinya following the escalation of the conflict between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese army in Rutshuru last October, had not yet received any food. People were desperately waiting for aid to arrive.

With the help of volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we distributed goods to 47, 280 people (displaced people and host families). Each family received a 25 kg sack of rice, 12.5 kg of beans, 5 litres of oil and 1 kg of salt. We also provided the same type of aid to 670 people in the town of Goma.

Thousands of displaced people had made their way to the foot of Mount Nyiragongo, where food was being distributed. With patience and discipline, they followed the instructions given by volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Aid was distributed on the basis of lists drawn up during the registration process carried out beforehand.

“My ordeal started when I fled here from Kisigari just over two months ago. Because I have a disability, I am struggling to feed my family”, explains Jean de Dieu Kasiki, a recipient of food aid, putting on a brave smile.

“Here we’ve no fields to tend: it’s really tricky. The war needs to end so that we can go home.”

Given Jean de Dieu’s disability, volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo helped him to transport the food aid he received to the hangar where he and his family have found shelter.

“We sleep on the floor in here. We don’t even have a mat,” he sighs.

Daily life is tough for people living on the site: when they fled the armed violence, they were forced to leave almost everything behind – fields, livestock, food and essential goods. They scramble to make ends meet with no means of subsistence. Many have taken on jobs as day labourers. However, this kind of work is becoming increasingly scarce, given the exponential growth in the number of displaced people. As a result, the income of households (internally displaced people and host families) remains low. The cost of food consumption does not exceed an average of 2,000 Congolese francs (approximately 1 US dollar) per day.

This particular camp, which hosts thousands of displaced people, is just a stone’s throw from another camp providing refuge to people who had fled the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in June 2021. The conditions here are far from sanitary, and only get worse when it rains. Rainwater frequently floods the small makeshift huts that serve as shelters for people unable to find space in schools, churches or other camps, leaving the occupants vulnerable to disease. Indeed, cases of cholera have been reported at the site.

In this region, the delivery of aid was hampered by a different set of difficulties. It had not been possible to obtain guarantees of safe access to a number of areas and mudslides during the rainy season had made roads impassable. These access and security problems made it difficult to provide assistance in kind. We therefore opted to provide cash to 44,910 people (displaced people and host family members).

Kambale Muhindo, a local authority representative (chef de quartier) for the neighbourhood of Kikyo, in southern Lubero, tells us with relief: “This financial aid will help to reduce existing tensions between displaced people and host families. The displaced people will not have to rely on the authorities or the local population. They will become more autonomous.”

“It’s quite a weight off my mind”, exclaims Kavugho Kifukutu as she checks the contents of the envelope she has received as part of the cash aid programme organized by the ICRC.

She took in eight people who had fled Kiwanja (Rutshuru territory) following clashes between the Congolese army and M23. Providing for her own family and the newcomers had become a heavy burden for the widow.

“I used to help out in other people’s fields to earn 2,000 Congolese francs (USD 1) per day. The little food we bought was used to feed the children, who are more vulnerable,” she says.

With the cash she has received, Kavugho plans to start a small business, acquire her own field and buy some household goods.

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