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Aid that rekindles hope

31-03-2005 Feature

The civilian population of Kivu is bearing the brunt of the tragic consequences of clashes in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ananie Kulimushi, an ICRC staff member in Goma, describes a scene where basic necessities are distributed to displaced people who had been losing all hope.


© CICR / Walter Jeanty / réf cd-e-00146 
Democratic Republic of the Congo. Distribution of aid in South Kivu on behalf of the displaced.

In the early morning on this Tuesday 22 March, people from some 4,200 households in Kashebere, Kibati and Kishanga, Walikale territory, North Kivu province, are waiting for a much anticipated distribution to begin. Some of them arrived the day before and had to spend the night nearby, sheltering themselves as best they could. It rained all night and now it is chilly. All applaud as trucks displaying the red cross emblem finally arrive.

Because of recurring clashes between various groups and armed forces, many people left the area to look for safety elsewhere and were forced to leave all their goods behind. Since the beginning of 2005, however, security conditions have improved somewhat and former inhabitants have begun to return to the hills here. They have had to face great poverty, as everything – fields, l ivestock, housing, tools, personal effects – was looted or destroyed.

“Look round our hills and tell me if you find a single remaining domestic animal, or a single field that was not destroyed. The aid we are about to receive is absolutely vital. It will pull us up from the depths of despair,” says one of the village chiefs.

Each family receives a kit containing items such as a jerrycan, clothing, blankets, soap, cooking utensils, vegetable seed, vegetables and a hoe. These items are given out following an assessment of needs by the ICRC.

Long before proceeding with the aid distribution, the ICRC worked with the area’s political and administrative authorities, customary chiefs and military authorities to obtain security guarantees. Logistics were another challenge: heavy rains had damaged roads, making transport by truck extremely difficult. At the distribution site the ICRC was helped by volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Marie Lukonge, 30 years old, a widow and mother of five children, is one of the countless women hit hard by the war that took a husband or brother or a child who could contribute to the family’s survival. Some women were raped by armed men and rejected by their husbands when their families could no longer care for them.

“The aid distribution really helps me to feel the joy of life again just when I was almost completely filled with despair,” says Marie as she looks at the goods contained in the kit. “Now I’ll be able to work the ground and look after my children.” A bag on her head and a baby on her back, she slips away to join her neighbours for the 10-kilometre return to their homes.