"2.7 million displaced persons: an extremely worrying crisis"
Adèle Bourdy, Head of Mission for Handicap International in the emergency context of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), describes the alarming humanitarian situation in the country.
Mugunga Camp for internally displaced people in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. | © H. Bonnin / Handicap International
After more than fifteen years of fighting, how would you describe the situation in DRC?
The humanitarian situation is extremely worrying. The Democratic Republic of Congo is facing a chronic crisis, which has lasted for years and has given rise to many emergency alerts. Political tensions, economic challenges , numerous armed conflicts: the climate is still very unstable. Epidemics are frequent and the country is regularly exposed to natural disasters. The general context of insecurity has led to many population displacements in the country, and in particular in North Kivu, in the east of the country. In February 2015, there were 2.7 million displaced persons in the country and more than 400,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.
Are the living conditions in the displaced persons camps difficult?
Very difficult and very rudimentary. The displaced populations have had to leave their villages. They have lost everything. These populations find themselves in make-shift shelters, tarpaulin huts, and the camps are very overcrowded. Access to water and to sanitary facilities and health care is very limited. The risk of epidemics is high. In these camps, the displaced populations have very few sources of income and it is very difficult to find work. Since December 2014, the government has decided to close all the camps in Goma, the capital of North Kivu. The displaced populations do not have the means to leave and still cannot return to the regions they come from, where the situation is still unstable. The population displacements are therefore a major problem in the east of DRC, where Handicap International is working.
What are Handicap International's priorities in this emergency context?
In North Kivu, in the context of chronic crisis and recurring alerts, many NGOs have been active in the field for years. It is, therefore, essential to coordinate the work of all these organisations so as to offer effective support for the affected populations. So, our first priority is to provide logistical support to humanitarian actors. We are making a fleet of 25 trucks (25 trucks per month) available to the 50 organisations for transporting humanitarian aid to areas that lack infrastructure. Furthermore, through our Inclusion technical unit, we are helping our partners to ensure that their projects, activities, and training methods are adapted for vulnerable people and notably for people with disabilities.
Our second priority is to identify, to meet, and to directly help the most vulnerable people in the field, in accordance with their specific needs. We offer them rehabilitation sessions and lead psychosocial sessions. We also try to increase their inclusion in the community - notably by raising the awareness of village leaders and of the other humanitarian actors.
Finally, we sustain our actions over time - rehabilitation sessions, psychosocial care, inclusion of people with disabilities and the logistics platform. These actions can improve the situation for the affected populations in DRC in the long term!
So Handicap International truly cares for the most vulnerable?
Absolutely. It is essential. We ensure that all vulnerable people - women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities - have access to the services offered by humanitarian organisations. That nobody is forgotten in this enduring crisis.