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Kasai in DR Congo: “There’s such poverty. People are utterly destitute.”

Emergency
Democratic Republic of Congo

Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been plagued by a crisis for over a year. More than two million people have been affected and the situation is getting worse by the day. Bakary Traoré coordinates HI’s actions in the field. Here he explains the situation in the region, his work and what people’s lives are like.

Bakary notes down the circumstances and needs of a displaced family in Kasai.

Bakary notes down the circumstances and needs of a displaced family in Kasai. | © Handicap International

“Between 2016 and 2017, in the aftermath of an internal conflict affecting this region of DRC, many villages were burned down by armed groups, forcing a lot of people to flee. They lost everything - their home, furniture, food stores, even their work tools,” explains HI's Bakary Traoré.

“Some displaced people are still too frightened to go back to their home village because it’s not safe. They have nothing left and they’re facing a real shortage of food and medical care. There’s such poverty. People are utterly destitute.”

Food crisis

“There are three NGOs in the area where we work. So there’s not enough humanitarian assistance. For the moment, HI’s priorities are to distribute food and assist the most vulnerable people.”

“We provide foodstuffs (corn flour, beats, oil and so on) to more than 8,500 families - 51,000 people - with funding from Food For Peace.  The harvest begins in a month, but people won’t have enough to eat.”

“According to an assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP), some 205,000 people are experiencing food insecurity in two areas covered by HI as part of the foodstuff distribution programme. Despite the presence of NGOs in these areas, the food coverage rate for these people is just 59%.”

Shortage of medication

“The quality of health services has also reached a critical point. HI sometimes works with hospitals where there’s not enough equipment or medication to treat children. The doctors write prescriptions but there’s a shortage of drugs. Some people who don’t have the money to go to hospital treat themselves with so-called therapeutic medicines, but they don’t work for most people.”

Building trust with the local population

 “My work mainly consists in adapting HI’s actions on the ground, by taking into account the situation and people’s needs. We also implement rehabilitation, protection and referral actions for 51,000 people, and identify the needs of each family.”

“However, to ensure HI’s actions have a real impact, we need to build a relationship of trust with the population because it’s the first time we’ve worked in these camps. HI has adopted a participatory method and, despite the difficult circumstances, people are beginning to take part in the activities run by the organisation.”

“But these missions focus on today. We also need to think about the future of these people who have nothing left. There needs to be a period of economic rehabilitation to help them rebuild their lives.”

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