[Francophones] Update North Kivu monitoring News

Mgr Masimango Katanda angkindu at yahoo.fr
Mar 11 Nov 10:22:39 GMT 2008

DRC: 'Invisible' displaced and host families at risk.

GOMA, DR CONGO, 10 November 2008--While official figures of
newly displaced people in crowded camps around Goma are still
being determined, another reality of displacement remains in the
shadows: the thousands of families who have opened their modest
homes to fleeing strangers. Although these displaced persons do
not appear to be immediately at risk of malnutrition and disease
like those jammed into camps, they are weighing on the meager
resources of their hospitable host families -- and feeling
undignified for having to do so.

In a meeting last week with a pastor in the western suburb of
Keshero outside of Goma, an ACT assessment team learned of the
needs within the area. The pastor had compiled a list of host
families with the numbers of people each was housing.

As many aid groups work to assist those in displaced person
camps, ACT members are working through church and local networks
to identify needs and prioritise assistance for the largely
'invisible' displaced families and the increasingly vulnerable
communities who are hosting them. Initial plans for assistance
include support for an estimated 60,000 people, as well as water
and sanitation support for significantly more families.

According to the local pastor's list, Maria Buira's family had
opened their doors to 18 people that had fled from Masisi. Among
the people that she accommodated was her elderly mother along
with a group from the same village.

Standing at the entrance of her small wooden house in the heat
of the midday sun, Maria said, "I couldn’t turn them away, but
as they became too many, I started to look for other places for
some of them to stay. My house is small, you see.” She
identified the owner of an unfinished brick building around the
corner and convinced him to unlock the gate to allow additional
displaced families to camp at the construction site.

At the unfinished doorstep of the skeleton of a brick house,
three families camp under the clumsily erected roof. Twagira, a
23-year-old mother of four children was sitting on a pile of
bricks, holding her six-month-old youngest child, who was born
into displacement. Twagira and her husband had left their village
of Tongo for the first time in January.

"We came all the way to Goma, because there was no security
closer to our home village. By April we decided to return to at
least try and cultivate our fields and produce a living… but had
to flee again in July. Here in Goma we are at the mercy of
others, there’s no land to cultivate. My husband goes out in
town every day and looks for little things to do here and there
to get paid 200, 300 francs [less than US $0.50] for doing small
things for others," said Twagira.

In addition to poor shelter conditions for some families, the
vulnerability of host communities is also increasing. With the
arrival of those who fled, the need for firewood can double or
triple for long periods of time and the surrounding environment
is beginning to suffer from deforestation.

Twagira did not pronounce a word of complaint about their
current living conditions at the construction site. When asked if
they were uncomfortable at the construction site, she said,
"There are no latrines. When it rains the water comes inside. We
do not have mats, we sleep on those rocks… We just want to go

Byamungu, an 18-year-old young man who assisted the ACT team
with their visit to the community, looked at children returning
from school with envy. "I was in the third grade of secondary
school back home. I did not run away under gun fire -- I left
because I heard the war was coming. And every time the war is
coming, they come to the villages and recruit young boys by
force. I did not want to become a fighter. I want to go back to
school, but now I’m just concerned about helping out the family
that is housing us here. I spend all day looking for small
errands to do, to be able to bring at least something back to our
host family at the end of the day."

Many of these 'invisible' displaced families have already fled
twice in a period of six months. An elderly couple, Papa Banzoa
and Mama Pascaline, now staying at Maria’s house, arrived in
Goma after the latest wave of fighting. Although the sounds of
battle were not yet heard in their village of Munigi, the crowd
of people fleeing towards Goma worried the old couple.

"We saw all these people running, running, so we decided to
leave too. We are old and weak, so we just walked slowly until we
reached Goma. We did not bring anything with us. By the time we
got to the borders of the town, the crowd with whom we started to
flee had dispersed here and there. We were among the last ones to
reach Goma. These people kindly opened their home to us, we are
just staying here for now," Papa Banzoa explained, who is ill and
has no means to get treatment.

As violence ensues, families continue to run for their lives
leaving everything they had just rebuilt to be destroyed once
more. Maria’s mother, who had fled to Goma from Kitchanga
earlier this year, said that she heard from other people from her
village that her house had been looted and that there was little
left. When asked whether she plans to return, she replied: "Let
me ask you something: Is it over? Is there no more war? Why go
back just to run again?"

>From Bishop Masimango Katanda
Kindu Diocese.

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