By Feargal O’Connell, Assistant Country Director of Programs, Democratic Republic of Congo
Today is World Humanitarian Day. According to the United Nations, today is ’a celebration of people helping people’ and the day ‘recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who risk their lives to give others help and hope.’
Today is when I started biting my fingernails again.
Today at 10.21 am local time Concern’s team was stopped at a checkpoint and refused passage until 11.27 am. The team had decided that with rising tension in an area prone to conflict, it would be prudent to temporarily relocate to the nearest city.
While we’re used to working in insecure areas (we’ve been operational in this area since 2004), recent insecurity and the threat of further deterioration, lead us to take the difficult decision that the team should withdraw for a few days.
But for a nerve-wracking 66 minutes their route to safety was blocked. Sixty-six minutes of fingernail biting for those of us supporting the team from afar. Sixty-six minutes of negotiation and waiting for the team on the ground.
Today at 11.27am the text came in: ‘We’re through’ and I (hopefully) stopped biting my fingernails again.
Up until May I worked directly with this team in the same area. And today, on World Humanitarian Day, I want to share the admiration and respect I have for every member of that team. Admiration for the work they do, providing timely and quality assistance to vulnerable and conflict affected-communities to improve their quality of life. And admiration for their positive and professional attitudes and outlooks despite working in an incredibly challenging environment day in, day out…year in, year out.
Concern is in the middle of registering newly displaced families who’ve fled their villages because of fighting and also vulnerable members of the communities that have taken them in.