A Day in the Life of a Humanitarian in DR Congo

Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 9:46 am

Feargal (left) on his last day with the team before taking up a new challenge with Concern in Kinshasa. Photo: DRC, Concern Worldwide

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.

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6 Responses to “A Day in the Life of a Humanitarian in DR Congo”

  1. Margaret Ormrod says:

    Huge amount of respect an admiration for you. It takes a big heart and a lot of selflessness to work in such a dangerous area, with the world’s most vulnerable citizens.
    We all applaud you.

  2. Susan Boyle says:

    Feargal – stay safe. You must have been so worried. Life is a lottery — but in certain places the odds are rotten..

  3. Denise Johnson says:

    I admire each and every one of you for taking risks to help these vulnerable people. With the help of God you will all remain safe.
    God Bless you!!

  4. Linda Poteat says:

    Great work, Feargal – so glad you are out there and enjoying your time in Congo. Your fan club in DC says hi. Happy World Humanitarian Day to you!

  5. Michelle says:

    Feargal, great to hear you’re in DRC. Sorry to hear that not much has changed. I had one nailbiting experience at a checkpoint in DRC where “they” would let us pass but not our partner. It took some negotiating and, let’s be honest, prayer before they let all of us pass. P.S. you look very much the humanitarian in that photo as opposed to the stuffy suits you had to wear during your jaunts to DC. Take care of yourself.

  6. [...] 2008, more aid workers were killed than peacekeeping troops.  A Concern Worldwide worker notes the risks of helping in the DRC and the need to relocate when tension rises.  The Bangkok Post recalls numerous recently targeted [...]

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