Posts Tagged democratic republic of the congo

Why Didn’t All the Aid Reach the Poorest? Here’s Why…

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

By Julia Lewis, Area Manager, Democratic Republic of Congo, Concern Worldwide

Concern staff prepare kits for distribution

When academics or the media criticize aid organizations for inefficiencies or promises unfulfilled, I can’t help but think about the vast and endlessly tangled complexities of this work.  Crisis follows crisis, harsh realities are compounded by harsh realities, and every day there are situations where we are forced to take decisions when no option offers the perfect solution.

That’s often the case here in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the epicenter of what was called ‘Africa’s World War’ (1998-2003), the deadliest conflict since World War II, and especially in the eastern reaches of the country where violence and terror have continued since the supposed end of that war.  Conflict and preventable disease continue to take the lives of tens of thousands each month—five years ago a fellow international organization here put the toll at over five million.  The situation has little changed since then.

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A Field Diary from Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

By Julia Lewis, North Kivu Area Manager, Concern Worldwide

People gather to listen to the first address by the M23 rebels spokesperson Vianney Kazarama at a stadium in Goma. Photo: REUTERS/James Akena

Information in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is often like a game of telephone. It’s hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint where a rumor begins, let alone how much it changed from the original source and if it had any credibility to begin with.

As the Area Manager for the international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide in the war-torn province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, distinguishing fact from fiction is a big part of my job. And in a country where security can change in an instant, acting on lies and failing to act on truth can have very real—even fatal—consequences.

Reports of a potential advance towards the provincial capital, Goma, by the M23 rebel movement started to circulate on Wednesday, November 14th.  I got a call from one of our national staff who had heard that they were planning to ‘enter Goma soon,’ but was initially quite skeptical as no other source could confirm this.  When I woke up that next morning, I learned that the M23 were fighting the Congolese national army, FARDC, in Kibumba, just 19 miles north of Goma. By Saturday, M23 had taken control of Kibumba. Suddenly, what seemed unlikely had become a tangible threat.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo: It is Time for Civilians to Come First

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

By Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

An M23 rebel fighter walks past a resident as they withdraw from the town of Sake. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Almost two weeks have passed since I returned from Masisi in the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There I witnessed civilian suffering on a shocking scale. We looked on helplessly as innocent families were deliberately targeted and burned out of their homes. They carried their belongings wrapped up in blankets as they scattered across the countryside just to escape the ravages of a conflict not of their making. The same scenes played out in village after village across many valleys in North Kivu.

Fighting has escalated rapidly. The country is on the brink of a devastating crisis, yet it still fails to make the headlines. This is hugely difficult to reconcile with the horror and absolute dismay we felt as we watched homes and livelihoods go up in smoke. Some 10,000 people were forced to seek refuge in Masisi center following these events. And this was just a sideshow to the main event. Opportunistic armed groups taking advantage of weakened security in the area while government (FARDC) troops were re-deployed elsewhere to deal with the growing threat posed by the M23 rebel group.

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Meeting 35-year-old mother Ndoole in DRC

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:39 am

This is Ndoole who used 26 of her 28 vouchers on school fees for her children. Photo: Feargal O’Connell, Concern Worldwide, Masisi, DRC.

This is Ndoole who used 26 of her 28 vouchers on school fees for her children. Photo: Feargal O’Connell, Concern Worldwide, Masisi, DRC.

Trading vouchers for school fees is something we have integrated into the fairs here, and it is proving to be very successful, even among the poorest families. The person that I spoke to at the Cash Voucher Market that affected me the most used all but two of her vouchers on school fees for her kids.

Ndoole is 35.  She has seven children and has been living in an informal camp for seven months since she was forced to flee conflict and her home village.  She fled to a place called Bukombo where other displaced families were taking refuge.  We ended up chatting with Ndoole because one of Concern’s drivers, Eddie, was helping her with her vouchers – the Cash Voucher Market is a new experience for all those participating, so some need a helping hand. Read the rest of this entry »

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First Days in DRC

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Cash for Work beneficiaries (and local partner staff in green t-shirt) preparing rocks for rehabilitating the Loashi-Masisi road. Photo: Reka Sztopa, Concern Worldwide, Masisi, DRC.

Four continents, five countries, six flights, four lines of latitude, eight time zones, an early Christmas lunch in London with my family, a 90-minute wait for baggage and three hour/75km journey along awful roads through stunning scenery brought me straight to a Concern distribution in Lushebere, Masisi, North Kivu, DRC.

When I pictured arriving in Masisi I imagined maybe a team meeting, unpacking my bags or maybe even a lunch.  I didn’t picture arriving in the midst of a distribution serving 600 displaced people but to be honest, it was exactly the reason I had chosen to come to DRC: the needs here are staggering.

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Swapping NYC for DRC

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2009 at 11:08 am

Feargal will be based in North Kivu, one of three provinces in DRC where Concern is working.

Feargal will be based in North Kivu, one of three provinces in DRC where Concern is working.

There are many pitfalls, bumps in the road and unexpected obstacles when you’re changing job and moving country all in one go.  That’s to be expected.  Especially when the country you’re moving to is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Canadian immigration, however, was not a hurdle I was expecting.

I knew I was in trouble when the border agent asked me what country I lived in.  I stuttered a little but the confused look on my face was the deal-breaker. Read the rest of this entry »

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