Devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mar 21, 2018

In recent months, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has deepened. Over half the people in the area where we work had to flee the violence. Now, they are retuning and trying to resume their lives.

A few weeks ago we shared an update on our project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where we are working in rural communities in the Fizi Territory, South Kivu. Given the security situation in DRC, as well as the levels of sexual violence in the area, the literacy classes and vocational skills sessions we run are home-based, to reduce the risks for women having to walk far.

Sadly, the security situation in the DRC recently escalated, affecting the area we work in too. We are in contact with our local partner organisation there, Femmes et Education des Adultes (FEDA), as we’ve heard that since late January, parts of Fizi Territory have been occupied by rebel forces (CNPSC) and there have been frequent clashes between them and government forces (FARDC). We’ve also heard the devastating news that this has involved severe human rights violations, with at least 38 civilian casualties.

Our Programme and Funding Officer, Sam Cook, who manages this project, has said:

Soap making cooperative in Kibunga, Democratic Republic of Congo

“It has been awful to hear of the conflict and its effect on communities who just want to continue with their lives as normal. But the people of South Kivu are incredibly strong, resilient and, sadly, experienced at dealing with situations like these. We hope our project has already gone some way to strengthening communities and will support the rebuilding process, which will have to take place once more.”

In South Kivu, humanitarian activities and schools have been temporarily closed, and over half the population of Kazimia and its surroundings (where our project is focusing this year) fled to neighbouring countries and to the forest for protection. Looting has also been rife in the area, and materials from the soap-making cooperatives supported through our project have been affected too. According to the UNHCR:

“[In South Kivu] Armed conflict, sexual violence and exploitation, serious human rights violations and risks of forced recruitment all contribute to forced displacement. […] The complexity of the situation is illustrated by the fact that South Kivu also hosts over 40,000 Burundian refugees.”

The resilience and strength of the people we work with in the DRC, including the staff at our partner organisation FEDA, is shown by the fact that already, as the situation is improving, people are coming back to their homes and trying to resume their lives.

Most FEDA staff and beneficiaries had fled to Burundi or Tanzania, but have now just started returning and, even though the planned activities of the cooperatives over this period were suspended, most members have now returned and activities have resumed.

We will be keeping in frequent contact with FEDA in the coming weeks, and we are planning to extend project activities to make up for the lost time and to offer sustainable support.

Please join us in standing in solidarity with the people we work with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The difficulties they face every day are unimaginable, not only with the risks of sexual violence, displacement and conflict, but also with poverty and food insecurity.

Just to give you an idea, it’s estimated that each month 1.9 million people in South Kivu don’t even eat a meal a day (UNOCHA). This is a reality that no one should ever have to face, and yet we’ve seen first-hand how the people we work with face it with strength, dignity and perseverance.

One of the home-based literacy classes, as part of our project working in rural communities with our local partner FEDA

If you would like to learn more about the conflict in the DRC, please click here.

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