Continuing Humanitarian Aid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
As local conflicts intensified in the village of Buzito in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Francoise Nyota Feza, an established farmer producing cassava, peanuts and corn, fled her home with nine children, leaving valuable farming equipment behind.
“In Kalemie, we settled at the Kalunga displacement camp where we spent five months without any assistance,” says Francoise of their arrival at the provincial capital in May 2017. “The living conditions got worse. Without adequate food, we slept outside at the mercy of the weather. My children suffered from malnutrition and measles because the conditions were so bad.”
In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Tanganyika Province, an ongoing humanitarian crisis triggered by local conflicts have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destabilized livelihoods across the province. The humanitarian crisis generated by the conflict has impacted food security, nutritional wellbeing and agricultural and commercial activities of local populations. CRS has been engaged in humanitarian relief efforts in Tanganyika through CRS’ DRIVE project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development since 2017. The project has been active since 2014, responding at first to conflict-generated needs in central DRC.
Program participants follow physical distancing guidelines while waiting to receive assistance at a distribution site organized by the DRIVE project.
Photo by Peter Bidiku/CRS
Displaced in Kalemie, Francoise found odd jobs such as washing clothes to feed her family. In December 2019, after more than two years displaced, Françoise and her husband decided it was time to return to their village, even if the security situation remained uncertain.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but we had no choice after almost three years of hardship,” says Francoise. “When we arrived, we found our house had been destroyed and burned. A host family took us in for a few days before the roof of our house was re-thatched. The material, food and shelter conditions were particularly dire during this period.”
Even with the arrival of COVID-19 in the DRC, CRS and local Caritas partners continue delivering a lifesaving humanitarian response in Tanganyika Province. Aiming to serve more than 130,000 people uprooted by conflict in the region, the DRIVE project recently developed precautions for distribution and voucher fairs, along with integrating safe distancing and hygiene protocols. The current phase of the project, in its eighth month, emphasizes a multisectoral approach to providing assistance tailored to meet the unique needs of populations affected by prolonged conflict.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of violence recorded during the months of February and March 2020 in the province of Tanganyika remain constant and continue to create movements of displaced and returned populations,” says Elie Murhula, DRIVE program manager. “The human cost of not continuing humanitarian response efforts would mean people dying from lack of food, water and shelter.”
In Francoise’s village, CRS and Caritas partners began distributions in March 2020 over three phases, including food such as cornmeal, vegetable oil, salt and beans, and essential household items like pots, mats, blankets, jerry cans, soap and tools to repair damaged homes.
“The objective of our response to COVID-19 is to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to returned and displaced communities, while protecting them, CRS and Caritas staff against COVID-19,” says Elie. “The goal is to also sensitize communities on how to protect themselves against COVID-19 and take all measures possible to make sure we do not inadvertently spread COVID-19 in the communities we serve.”
Francoise Nyota Feza and her children make bricks in preparation of the reconstruction of their home in Buzito village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The family received a shelter kit through the DRIVE project.
Photo by Roddy Panga/CRS
"Today my family has been saved thanks to this assistance. We have regained our health and hope to be able to finish rebuilding our three-room house by the end of August with the shelter kit we received,” says Francoise. “We have already started building the foundations and are determined to improve our conditions.”
In April, 1,435 displaced or recently returned households near the provincial capital were provided with shelter kits to help them rebuild their homes. As part of their participation in the DRIVE project, these same households also receive food assistance and non-food items to help cover their essential needs as they restart their agricultural livelihoods.
“These people need immediate humanitarian assistance so they can rebuild their lives and also protect their dignity,” Elie says.