Emergency aid for families in areas difficult to access
Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The people in the tribal regions of Walikale, Masisi, Rutshuru and Lubero in North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being severely impacted by the proliferation of armed conflicts. The region is also very difficult to access, which makes it all but impossible to deliver emergency aid. HEKS/EPER is assisting people with road repairs and providing emergency aid that is benefiting some 600,000 people.
For decades now the people of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been enduring armed conflicts associated mainly with illegal mining, against a backdrop of political and ethnic tensions. The resurgence of the M23 rebel group in 2022 caused an escalation of fighting with the local ethnic-based armed groups and national Congolese army in Eastern North-Kivu. The violence is forcing ever more families to flee their villages. The situation of civilians has thus become increasingly critical: displacement exposes them to diseases and natural disasters, but they are also targets of abuse, often losing the few resources they had. It is difficult to alleviate the plight of these people, as the regions concerned are hard to reach. Delivering humanitarian aid is a major challenge. The condition of access roads is such that they are impassable. Transportation to these remote regions is therefore impossible. Yet their populations are in urgent need of food, shelter as well as medical attention, access to drinking water and sanitary facilities. The high proportion of women and children amongst the displaced population also highlights the need for protection, as they are more exposed to abuse.
Local economy in ruins
The main factors behind the collapse of the local economy are the poor state of the major transport routes, the volatile security situation that limits and makes travel dangerous, and the inability to market local produce. This situation has triggered a massive surge in crime, forced recruitment of children, young people and adults into armed groups, as well as forced labour and the illegal collection of taxes.
Present in DRC since early 2019, HEKS/EPER is now working in North Kivu to ensure a response to urgent needs, through projects funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO), USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and the Humanitarian Fund for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FH RDC). These projects aim to provide an emergency response to vulnerable populations by providing services such as sanitary facilities, food and cash assistance, drinking water supply but also protection and healthcare, with partner organizations. Through multipurpose cash assistance and Non-Food Items distributions, the project is assisting nearly 140’000 displaced people. 390’000 people are benefiting from WASH activities, and 40’000 people are supported by the relaunch of agricultural production. More than 6000 families are also receiving cash through the Cash-for-Work program by working on the roads. These beneficiaries are mainly female-headed households, displaced-families, households with very low incomes or with members that are living with HIV/AIDS, chronical disease or have malnourished children.
Facilitating aid transport and supporting local economy
HEKS/EPER is contributing to the opening of humanitarian access to this region so that aid can be delivered. The road infrastructure is almost non-existent or badly damaged due to lack of maintenance and has become nearly impassable, even more so when the heavy rainy seasons contribute to the formation of mud pits and landslides. HEKS/EPER is working on the opening of about 90km of road and the repairing of infrastructures, such as bridges, on the two main transport axes linking the territories of Masisi and Walikale to Goma, the capital of North-Kivu. These activities, in addition to facilitating humanitarian access, help revitalize these isolated areas and facilitate trade between villages along the axes. HEKS/EPER is also assisting by hiring local people as workers on the road repair through a cash-for-work system. Each beneficiary works for 20 working days for a total of 60 US dollars (3 USD per day), which is the indicated amount so as not to disrupt the local economy.
Responding to urgent needs for displaced families
HEKS/EPER provides emergency aid to people displaced by armed conflicts or natural disasters. To respond to the urgent needs of these populations, distributions of multipurpose cash assistance, household items and sanitation kits are organized as close to the people as possible. This aid, amounting to 90 USD per family, is intended to cover the basic needs of the household.
Securing livelihoods through sanitary facilities, access to drinking water and food
Furthermore HEKS/EPER wants to ensure supplies of drinking water and improving hygiene and sanitary conditions. In order to reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases, communities are sensitized to hygiene and sanitation practices, and receive guidance and support to build their own household latrines. They also benefit from water supply systems whose construction is done with a local labor, contributing to local employment. In areas with large numbers of displaced people, where there is a risk of epidemics, emergency latrines are built to reduce such risks.
HEKS/EPER is also supporting the resumption of agricultural production by vulnerable population groups who have lost their seeds and equipment as a result of conflicts and repeated displacements. The goal is to provide safe and reliable means for securing livelihoods, thereby buttressing the resilience of target groups. Through agriculture, fish-farming and rice-growing activities, cultivation of the land as well as access to local markets will be improved, by reuniting the producers under cooperatives.This serves the local economy while laying the groundwork for peaceful coexistence, in order to foster progress towards local development.