More than two million people have been affected by the humanitarian crisis in Grand Kasai, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Handicap International has sent emergency specialists to support its existing teams in the field. Sulu Bellarmin, who works as both the organization’s driver and logistics assistant, tells us about life in Kasai.
What impact has this crisis had on local people?
There’s a strong climate of insecurity: people are being murdered, raped, and their homes are being destroyed or robbed – everyone’s afraid. Thousands of people have been displaced, some have taken refuge with relatives, and others are living in makeshift accommodation in rural areas. Economically, the railway that transported food in to Kananga is no longer operating and prices have skyrocketed. Because of the insecurity, people no longer sell food to families by bicycle. There’s a severe shortage of medication, food, and essential items, such as hygiene products. The situation is critical.
How has your family been affected?
My family and I have been very badly affected. We’d never experienced a conflict before, with bullets coming at you from all sides. We go days without food or sleep, and worry that maybe there’s going to be an attack in our neighborhood, which is getting emptier by the day. We have been displaced to a more expensive and smaller house, where we’re relatively safe. Things are very worrying.
What are working conditions like?
We’re all working under pressure in a tense situation. I’ve been involved in the logistics side of things: purchasing, accommodation and supplier research – since the start of the emergency response, and I still work as a driver. Handicap International’s emergency response is meant to help victims of this crisis, particularly by providing rehabilitation care to casualties and getting humanitarian aid to remote areas. It puts my mind at ease to know that I’m helping the most vulnerable people. That’s one of my top priorities.
Learn more: Handicap International in Kasai
Present in Kasai since 2015, Handicap International has sent a team of emergency specialists to expand its response to this crisis. The organization also provides rehabilitation care, distributes walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids, and provides psychological support to victims. The organization also assesses the situation facing the victims of violence in order to better protect them and to train local organizations to identify the most vulnerable people. Handicap International helps to transport humanitarian aid to people living in areas that are difficult to access or unsafe. Lastly, Handicap International is also planning to distribute food and essential household items, such as cooking utensils and hygiene kits with soap, to thousands of affected families.