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Supporting people affected by conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo

Maedhbh McDonald | 20 July 2016 | 0 Comments

Nestled in the centre of the African continent lies the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a vast country whose recent history has been one of conflict and corruption.

The country was plagued by civil war from 1997 to 2003, and since 2003 conflict has persisted in the east of the country. The humanitarian fallout from the violence has been profound, and the suffering endured by the people of DRC is difficult to comprehend.

In the Masisi territory in eastern DRC, inter-ethnic conflict is widespread and recent years have witnessed the proliferation of multiple armed groups in the area. Frequent clashes between the groups has resulted in civilian displacements and a loss of crops, homes and livelihood. With the support of European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Concern is working in Masisi territory, helping the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict. Our humanitarian response is focused on improving living conditions, preserving dignity and reducing the vulnerability of conflict-affected populations in Masisi Territory. Some of the programme participants spoke to us about how the programme has impacted their lives.

A brighter future for Mariamu

Mariamu Muhombo is pictured outside her home with seeds and tools she received from Concern.   Photo: Ulua Popol/Concern Worldwide.

Mariamu lives with her four children in a village called Kweriba, just outside the Masisi centre. She’s the sole provider for her family as her husband has passed away, and she relies on her vegetable garden to feed her children. She speaks of how the ongoing conflict has disrupted her life:

“I had to flee several times, my kids and me. Every time we fled we lost everything:  household utensils, food and crops in the field.”

The Concern programme, supported by ECHO, aims to help civilians by providing them with tools to support themselves. In Mariamu’s case, she was provided with maize, beans, groundnuts, cabbage and carrot seeds so that she could provide food for her family.

“The arrival of Concern in our village was like a salvation for me because I had no seed to plant this season. I was worried that I would not be able to provide for my family. I am happy now I have extended my field from 50 metres to 100 metres,” said Mariamu.

In a region of instability and insecurity, Mariamu and her family are content in the certainty that they will have enough food to feed themselves over the next couple months. With a smile on her face and hope in her eyes, Mariamu expressed her gratitude to Concern:

“I am thankful to Concern because I now have hope that tomorrow will be better for me and my kids.”

Cash transfers help Imani

Cash transfer beneficiary Imani Mihiyo with five of her six children outside her home. Photo: Ulua Popol/Concern Worldwide.

“I am 21 years old and yet I have 6 children. Because of the war, I have lost everything,” said Imani, a resident of Kweiba village.

Imani is a beneficiary of Concern’s cash transfer programme and has received cash transfers which have enabled her to son to school.

“With the cash I paid school fees for my son and with the rest I started breeding pigs. With the fair coupon I bought a mattress and household utensils,” said Imani.

Imani and her husband both work as casual labourers, often working in the fields or transporting goods by foot, and without support from Concern they would not have been able to afford these bare essentials.

“I am happy that Concern came to our village to help us. Thanks to Concern and ECHO that they thought to help people in my village”, said Imani.

Buuma grows food for his family again

Buuma Maene and his sister working in his field which was planted using seeds provided by Concern. Photo: Ulua Popol/Concern Worldwide.

Buuma from Muranga village, relies on agriculture to support himself and his four children, but because of repeated lootings he has lost all his stock of seed. This has driven his family to near starvation and his wife was forced to return to her parents’ home in search of food.

Thanks to Concern’s cash transfers programme, supported by ECHO, Buuma received seeds and tools which has enabled him to replant his garden and sustain his family. Looking around at his thriving field, Buuma said with pride:

“I am so happy to see how the ground nuts are growing well I hope the harvest will be fine.”

Buuma also used the cash vouchers to buy a mattress, a goat, household assets and clothes. “We used to sleep on banana leaves but now I am sleeping well on the mattress I bought. I hope my wife will be happy to see all these good things we now have,” said Buuma. 

Buuma’s sister has moved in to help him care for his children, however he hopes his wife will return home soon so that they can work together to support their four children.

Muhindo thanks Concern

Muhindo Lubira with his children and the goat they bought. Photo: Ulua Popol/Concern Worldwide.

“I didn’t have the chance to finish school because of the conflict”, said Muhindo, a father of five living in Muranga village. With no access to land, Muhindo earns a living working in the fields or transporting goods to Masisi by foot, which is about 11km away.

According to Muhindo, the needs of his village have been largely ignored until the arrival of Concern: “Ever since we have been facing troubles here at Muranga nobody has come to assist us. Concern is the first NGO I have seen coming to assist us here.”

Muhindo and his family have been supported through cash transfers, and he discusses how this has changed his life: “I bought a goat, clothes for the whole family and I was able to pay school fees for my son with the coupon I received.”

Beaming with pride, Muhindo displays the items he bought with the cash transfers:

“I am so happy that my family and I now have a sauce pan to cook with and enough food to feed all of us. I am grateful to Concern for this assistance.”

Concern and EU ECHO’s commitment

The ongoing conflict in DRC has caused unfathomable upheaval and disruption in the lives of ordinary citizens, and as the stories from the Masisi territory illustrate, the effects of war linger long after the conflict ends. Concern, with the support ECHO, is committed to addressing the humanitarian needs and protecting the most vulnerable people in Eastern DRC. Through resilience-building and livelihood programmes we are providing families with hope for the future.

This blog is based on interviews conducted by Ulua Popol.

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