Democratic Republic of the Congo | After volcano, more than 34,000 gallons of drinking water delivered
Humanity & Inclusion teams are helping people affected by the May eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The disaster displaced more than 400,000 people and destroyed houses and infrastructure in the city of Goma. For instance, the volcano’s destruction has disrupted the supply of clean drinking water.
Humanity & Inclusion is coordinating a fleet of trucks to help other organizations deliver humanitarian supplies. In partnership with Action Against Hunger, Humanity & Inclusion is transporting water to four distribution sites in the district of Nyiragongo. With two trucks, teams are making six round trips a day to fill each water tank three times.
So far, more than 34,000 gallons of clean drinking water has been delivered to people who need it most.
The Nyiragongo volcano erupted on May 22, spewing lava over neighboring villages and causing reverberating tremors throughout the region. Jérémy Mouton, Humanity & Inclusion’s Emergency Watch and Preparedness Officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, gives an update on the humanitarian crisis now facing the people of Goma:
In Goma, many people displaced by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano are starting to return to the city due to a lack of reception areas and access to services in displacement zones where temporary shared shelters have been set up. And, because they’re afraid their homes in Goma will be broken into, they want to return as soon as possible.
Although some businesses have reopened and transportation services are up and running again, many homes have been destroyed or damaged.
The needs of people affected by the disaster are immense. They are unable to access health care, housing, water, sanitary facilities and food—neither in Goma nor in displacement areas. Displacement has also given rise to overcrowding, lack of privacy, separation of family members and other factors that have exposed people—particularly women, children and people with disabilities—to risk of violence and abuse.
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1995 and is currently providing response in aid to people in North Kivu. The organization is coordinating a fleet of trucks for humanitarian organizations to deliver supplies to people who need them most. Humanity & Inclusion is also planning to provide psychosocial support to people affected by the disaster and to distribute kits containing essential household items such as tarps and blankets to make the return home easier.
Democratic Republic of the Congo | Volcanic eruption leaves families displaced, in need of essentials
Humanity & Inclusion is providing aid to the most vulnerable people displaced by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano near Goma in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province.
Having left behind or lost their homes and belongings, thousands of families are now without basic necessities or income. Many are living in unsanitary conditions in a region already facing an alarming humanitarian situation, including the presence of numerous armed groups and food insecurity.
The needs are immense. People affected by the eruption face poor access to drinking water and sanitary facilities, food insecurity, the risk of cholera, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1995, and is responding to assist the most vulnerable people in North Kivu. The organization's logistics experts are also coordinating a fleet of trucks to deliver Humanity & Inclusion supplies, as well as those from other humanitarian organizations.
In this anxiety-inducing climate, Humanity & Inclusion will provide psychological support to impacted people. Teams will also distribute kits containing essential household items such as tarps, blankets, pots and pans, and soap to those in need over the coming weeks.
Three weeks after the volcano’s eruption, earthquakes are less frequent in Goma and displaced people are returning home. In some of the worst-hit neighborhoods, however, homes have been destroyed, water pipes burst and other damage has been reported. According to the Office of Volcanology in Goma, another eruption is still a possibility.
When Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, Humanity & Inclusion mobilized its teams to help the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Providing emergency response in almost all the countries where Humanity & Inclusion works has been a major challenge, especially since its emergency teams are normally able to focus their efforts on a handful of countries or regions. Humanity & Inclusion therefore provided emergency response and adapted its routine projects to help all those in need.
As of December 2020, more than 65 million people worldwide have been infected with Covid-19 and more than 1.5 million people have died.
While the epidemic has hit Western countries extremely hard, it is also affecting many countries in Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America and Africa, which are already affected by violent conflicts, political and socio-economic crises, frequent natural disasters, and significant climate change. Thousands of people need assistance.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Humanity & Inclusion has:
- Provided response in 46 of the 50 countries where it works;
- Implemented more than 160 projects in aid of people affected by the Covid-19 crisis;
- Given assistance to more than 2 million people between March and August 2020 alone;
- Provided more than 1.6 million people with information on Covid-19 prevention measures;
- Distributed more than 138,000 hygiene kits containing hand sanitizer, soaps, and other items;
- Distributed more than 800,000 masks;
- Provided food to more than 6,800 vulnerable families;
- Organized thousands of psychosocial support sessions for people who feel insecure or traumatized as a result of the crisis;
- Conducted thousands of tele-rehabilitation sessions in countries where a strict lockdown has been imposed to continue providing its routine services to people in need.
Beyond its impact on health, Covid-19 has had a considerable effect on children’s education. According to a Unesco report, some 1.6 billion children and teenagers have been deprived of school education in 190 countries as a result of the pandemic. The situation is even more worrying for children with disabilities, who find it harder to access education.
This pandemic has also considerably increased poverty and food insecurity. People in 25 countries are expected to face devastating levels of hunger in the coming months due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of acute food insecure people could increase from 149 million before the pandemic to 270 million.
Identifying the needs of the most vulnerable people
Humanity & Inclusion's teams and volunteers trained by the organization have identified the needs of the most vulnerable people including older people, single women with children, people with disabilities, migrant populations, and refugees. Those with the greatest needs are receiving direct assistance such as awareness sessions, distribution of hygiene kits, food assistance, cash transfers, and psychosocial support, or referrals to an organization that can offer them appropriate care, including healthcare for those infected with Covid-19.
Leading awareness-raising sessions
More than 1.6 million people affected by the pandemic have taken part in awareness sessions in villages and communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean, and at home. Humanity & Inclusion has provided people with information on Covid-19, including the risk of transmission and prevention measures, through group meetings in villages, refugee camps, and the like; one-on-one sessions; and awareness campaigns based on leaflets, posters, and other materials. The organization has also aired programs on radio and TV. For example, in Nepal, Humanity & Inclusion has produced videos with subtitles and in sign language adapted to people with hearing difficulties, in partnership with the World Health Organization, which have been aired on Nepalese television.
Offering psychosocial support
Humanity & Inclusion has provided psychosocial support to people affected by the pandemic and the trauma it has caused, from economic hardships to loss of family and friends. More than 225,000 people received psychosocial support, including by telephone, from Humanity & Inclusion. The organization has also provided support to medical staff who are on the front line.
Distributing hygiene items, food, and cash
Humanity & Inclusion has distributed more than 138,000 hygiene kits composed of hand sanitizer, soaps, cleaning supplies, and the like. More than 800,000 masks have also been provided to people who need them.
In many countries, the food supply chain has been disrupted by border closures and lockdown measures. In Bolivia, especially, it is more complicated to access food in cities. Price inflation has soared and many people, who have lost their jobs, have found it more difficult to access food. Humanity & Inclusion has provided food assistance to more than 6,800 families by distributing goods, cash transfers, non-perishable foods, fresh produce from partner organizations, and so on.
Humanity & Inclusion has also identified people living in situations of extreme vulnerability, including refugees and families living in extreme poverty, and provided them with cash transfers to access basic services and meet their basic needs such as paying rent, buying food, and going to the doctor. So far, 7,565 families have received cash transfers from Humanity & Inclusion.
Transporting humanitarian supplies
The measures put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19 have entrenched humanitarian crises and made it harder to implement humanitarian aid projects. Faced with the difficulties of transporting humanitarian supplies and mobility issues caused by lockdowns, quarantines and other restrictions, Humanity & Inclusion, through its logistics department, has shifted the focus of its operations in Central African Republic, Bangladesh and Mali. News projects were also implemented in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti for the transport and shared storage of health and humanitarian equipment, the repair of airport runways and roads to isolated health centers, and the like.
Humanity & Inclusion has also mobilized three experts from the Réseau Logistique Humanitaire (RLH) to coordinate airlifts to 12 countries. More than 141,000 cubic feet of emergency supplies and 1,200 humanitarian and medical staff were transported as part of this operation.
Conducting tele-rehabilitation sessions
Humanity & Inclusion continued providing rehabilitation care to patients who need it by adapting its working methods to the Covid-19 pandemic. Where the situation allowed, physical therapists continued to provide care in rehabilitation centers in compliance with safety rules such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
In countries where lockdowns were imposed, online tele-rehabilitation sessions have enabled thousands of patients to continue doing their physical therapy exercises at home by watching videos or receiving instructions via telephone, WhatsApp, and other technology. Humanity & Inclusion has organized thousands of tele-rehabilitation sessions in Nepal, for example, and developed virtual rehabilitation apps in Rwanda and Vietnam.
Promoting safety and inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion referred more than 470 people with the greatest protection needs, such as single women, isolated children, and refugees to specialized organizations able to offer them appropriate support.
Lastly, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams trained 201 staff from partner humanitarian organizations to include the most vulnerable people such as people with disabilities, isolated women, and older people in activities organized for victims of the Covid-19 crisis. The aim is to ensure that no one is left behind.
Trésor calls his brace “libende,” which means “piece of iron” in the Lingala language. Trésor is fond of the brace, which has helped him live a normal life after he contracted polio when he was 3. He’s 12 now.
One of nine children, Trésor and his family live among the sprawling suburbs of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Trésor’s mother sells biscuits on the side of the road.
When Trésor was 3, he came down with a bad fever and his parents rushed him to the hospital.
“I remember when my little brother got polio like it was yesterday,” said Nsumbu-Mateka, Trésor’s older brother. “It wasn’t long before we realized Trésor would never regain the use of his left leg. We were so shocked. He couldn't play or run around like before. Our parents were really unhappy about it but there was nothing they could do.”
After Trésor lost use of his leg and his ability to walk, Nsumbu-Mateka saw that he wasn’t able to participate in every day activities.
"There are a lot of people like my brother around here, but unfortunately most never leave home,” Nsumbu-Mateka explained. “The children don’t go to school. They can’t move around, and in some ways, they’re excluded from the community."
Wanting better for his younger brother, Nsumbu-Mateka began looking into educational opportunities for Trésor. He learned of a school in their neighborhood that accepts children with disabilities. Thanks to his brother’s advocacy, Trésor attended his first day of school when he was 9. That’s where Trésor met Humanity & Inclusion’s team, which works to promote school enrollment for children with disabilities.
Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion ensures that schools are accessible for children with reduced mobility, trains teachers to adapt their lessons for students with disabilities, and works to provide individual support to children with disabilities.
Trésor was one of those children. Humanity & Inclusion arranged for Trésor to visit a local orthopedic center, where he received a pair of crutches, a brace, and a custom-made orthopedic shoe. Through donor support, Humanity & Inclusion continues to work with Trésor, providing the growing boy on average two new braces each year.
Now, with his “libende” and crutches, Trésor walks 45 minutes to school each day. He particularly loves calculus and French, and dreams of becoming a doctor one day so he can care for others. His classmates are amazed by his willpower and happy to call him their friend.
Trésor loves spending time with his family, especially his brother, Nsumbu-Mateka. He plays games and draws cartoons. But most of all, Trésor enjoys paying a few cents to rent a bike and showing the other children that he can ride a bike, just like them.
First photo: A young boy named Trésor crouches down while playing a game with bottle caps outside his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg.
Second photo: Trésor sits on a table and has his foot measured during a consultation with Humanity & Inclusion staff. His is wearing a white shirt and shorts. He is barefoot.
Third photo: Trésor sits in a chair, holding a yellow soccer ball. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg. His crutches are leaning on the wall beside him.
“Philémon, my son, was ten years old at the time,” says Véronique as she recalls the day of her son's accident. “He was walking home from school. He was a hundred yards or so from the house where 13 of us live. The traffic is terrible in Goma. A truck loaded with stones missed Philémon by inches, then tipped over and crushed his leg.
“The neighbors ran to tell us. I couldn't believe it. I was in a total panic when I got to the hospital. My son was in intensive care. When I finally got to see him, the doctors had already amputated his right leg. It was like a nightmare.”
Véronique and her husband Jean-Pierre live in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a region torn apart by more than two decades of conflict. The couple live in a small home along with their 11 children.
After Philémon’s accident, he had to stay in hospital for three months, and endured three operations. "His leg was swollen, and he wanted to die,” his mother continues. “He was so depressed. It was torture seeing him like that. When he came home, we would often find him sitting in a corner, crying.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation team met Philémon and gave him a pair of crutches. We then started providing him with physical therapy sessions three times a week at a Goma provincial hospital.
“His stump is in a good condition,” explains Noela, a physical therapist with Humanity & Inclusion. “But after the accident, they had to amputate the whole leg. He’s going to have to wear a special belt around his waist so his prosthesis stays on. At the moment, Philémon is doing exercises to strengthen the stump and make it more flexible.”
To help boost his confidence, Philémon also attends psychosocial support sessions with Brigitte, a psychologist from Humanity & Inclusion. “He is participating in psychosocial sessions," Brigitte says. "He plays and expresses he feelings, but it’s not easy. Philémon is still very fragile and very withdrawn. He used to have a lot of friends. Now it's more complicated. At school, he is the only child with a disability out of more than a thousand students. It is still difficult.”
When Humanity & Inclusion’s team asks Philémon what he wants to do when he grows up, he hesitates, then whispers that he likes cars and mechanics. His father adds, “I'm dreaming a little, but I'd like him to be an entrepreneur.”
Humanity & Inclusion (which operates under the name Handicap International in the DRC) has completed its demining operations in the Tshopo, Ituri, Bas-Uele and Haut-Uele provinces of Democratic Republic of the Congo. From January 2016 to December 2017, HI and its local partner, Africa for Anti-Mine Action (AFRILAM) cleared 34,520 meters of land of mines, freeing 5,600 people of the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war, the legacy of conflicts between armed groups in the region which started in the 1990s.
The mines were cleared manually by a team of 19 deminers trained by Humanity & Inclusion. On average, one deminer manually cleared 13 meters each day. Since operations began in 2016, 21 mines have been made safe and destroyed, along with 25 explosive remnants of war (ERW) including F1 grenades, PG7 rockets, and 120 mm mortar shells.
"Despite the very difficult conditions in the zones concerned, due to the rainy season from October to May and the very dense vegetation, the demining operations went very well,” explains Jadot Bamungu, the head of HI's demining operations in the DRC. “HI organized 85 risk education sessions for 6,000 people to raise awareness of the risks of explosive remnants of war. We feel this will help the local populations to feel safer and to go about their day-to-day activities serenely.”
Antipersonnel landmines were first used in 1960 in the DRC when it achieved its independence. Since 1996, there has been widespread use of mines by the various armed groups fighting in the north and east of the country in a succession of conflicts. They still pose a constant threat to the local population today.
HI in DRC
Present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1994, HI provides rehabilitation care, promotes the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools, and more. Having been heavily involved in demining operations, our previous projects in this area date back to 2014. Alongside AFRILAM, our partner since 2008, we've been deploying new operations in this area over the last three years. A State Party to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has set itself the goal of becoming mine free by 2021. Learn more about our work in the DRC.
Following ongoing clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 10,000 people have left South Kivu and are taking refuge in south-western Burundi. Humanity & Inclusion (which works under the operating name “Handicap International” in Burundi) is on the ground, assisting the most vulnerable, including thousands of unaccompanied children.
“We are preparing to implement protection activities targeted at the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who account for more than 65% of refugees,” explains Audrey Lecomte, HI’s Head of Mission in Burundi. “Many of them arrived without their parents and are particularly at risk from violence, exploitation, or abandonment. We want to protect girls and women by providing them with psychological support and making them aware of the risk of violence. HI needs funding to launch its emergency response.”
“The needs of refugees in transitional camps are considerable. These camps are designed to provide very temporary accommodation and are now operating beyond full capacity. Access to services such as health care and aid remains extremely limited given the needs of these refugees.
“Many people without shelter sleep grouped together in hangars. The shortage of water and sanitary facilities, such as toilets, has increased the risk of a cholera epidemic. The most vulnerable people including children, women, older people, and people with disabilities are particularly at risk. We’re expecting to see a new influx of refugees in the weeks ahead.”
Our work in Burundi
Present in Burundi since 1992, HI helps ensure people with disabilities have access to basic services and rehabilitation and are involved in their social and economic environments. Learn more about our work in Burundi.
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.
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to supporting people who are fleeing conflict and natural disaster. Whether they are sheltering within their own countries or residing in countries of first asylum as refugees, our teams are hard at work providing basic and specific aid to people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Read about our work with refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) as well as our other projects in the 11 countries below.
This life-saving work is possible thanks to the generous support of our donors, as well as key funding agencies such as the U.S. Department of State, IKEA Foundation, among others.