Start Fund helps displaced families in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo
Congolese forced to flee homes and seek refuge with local communities
By Bernard Balibuno, CAFOD’s country representative in Democratic Republic of Congo
Increased violence by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has caused thousands of people to be displaced within the country since September 2016. Most of the internally displaced in Beni are living with host families without any humanitarian support.
Start Network member CAFOD was awarded Start Funds to implement a response on the ground as part of its 198th Alert. CAFOD’s country representative, Bernard Balibuno talks about their response in Beni and sheds some light on the lives of Congolese people.
Marta, a mother of five children, rests in a chair as she tells me how she lost her husband to malaria just as they were being forced from their home two months ago in the Mbao-Kamango area, North-East of the DRC.
At night, Marta and her five children sleep on a tattered mat in a corner of a schoolroom that they share with at least 25 other families who have recently fled ongoing violence in Beni province. She is one of the lucky ones. Many other parents like her don’t even have a floor space to sleep on and are forced to try to remain standing or leaning against walls when it is raining. When it is not raining, they spend the night sleeping out in the open.
Her five children, aged between 13 and two, are all visibly malnourished.
Having walked for miles to get to Beni town, the family were just about surviving thanks to help from their host community. The host community were already struggling before the arrivals of people from Mbao-Kamango. Local communities have been overwhelmed by the wave of displaced people coming in from nearby cities due to the ongoing violence and security situation.
In Beni, with support from the Start Fund, CAFOD’s local partners are now providing emergency aid to over 700 families displaced by fighting in the area. Recent movements of armed rebel groups, have forced people from their homes. The majority of families have fled from the town of Mbao-Kamango, northeast of Beni, seeking safety in the neighbouring towns of Matongue, Kasabinyole or Masiani.
Most of the families were displaced after fighting intensified in October 2017, in what continues to be one of the most under-reported conflicts in the world. With help from the Start Fund, CAFOD’s local partner Solidarité Coopérative Agricole du Congo (SOCOAC) is reaching around 30 per cent of the total displaced people. CAFOD’s response is focussing on helping the most marginalised people, including children head of families and families with single parents.
“This help is here at the right time as we could not celebrate Christmas and New Year while many people in this community are suffering and sleeping in the open with no food
“We are grateful to CAFOD and the donors for remembering displaced people at this critical time. The needs are great as you can see and you should continue advocating for those who were not served”.
- Local Mayor, Mr Nyonyi Bwanakawa
I also spoke to Kavuro Rosette, a single mother of four children who was displaced three months ago. She cannot return to her village as the armed rebel groups continue looting and killing people in her area. She is living with a host family from her Church, but they are also very poor.
In such a terrible situation, host families share their already limited resources with internally displaced families, despite seeing their own humanitarian situation deteriorate day by day.
Most displaced families are surviving on just one meal a day.
“I wish there was peace so I can go to farm, but now I will miss this planting season” said Kavuro. She is already predicting that things will be difficult for her in the coming harvest season, as she will have nothing to feed her children.
Conflict is terrible in the present, but also impacts the future of everyone who is affected: three of Kavuro’s children who are of school age will not be going to school this year.
Around 60 per cent of those who have been internally displaced in the region are women and children and are in a state of extreme vulnerability.
Being able to get funds released through the Start Network within 72 hours was crucial for providing the most vulnerable people like Kavuro and her family with the basic, life-saving assistance they need to survive. The Start Funded response in the DRC was implemented by Start Network members CAFOD and Tearfund, and reached an estimated 7,080 people and finished on the 30th January 2018.