Goma — With heavy rains underway in eastern DR Congo, more than 23,800 displaced families today began receiving essential items including plastic sheeting, blankets and clothing in the largest distribution of such items in years in North Kivu province.
"In Goma, it rains every day and at night at this time of year. It can get very chilly," said Barbara Bentein, UNICEF Representative in DR Congo. "I saw many displaced people building their own makeshift shelters with bits and pieces. Many still lack proper shelter to keep themselves dry and warm. When children get wet and cannot change their clothes, they are more at risk of falling sick and suffering from infectious diseases such as pneumonia."
Violence in North Kivu in recent months forced more than 130,000 people to flee and seek refuge with other families or in other sites. Often people are displaced multiple times and lose what little they had.
With fighting between troops and armed groups in November moving closer to Kanyaruchinya camp, over 5,400 families fled - often with the clothes on their backs and a few belongings. While more than 85 per cent of displaced people in DRC live with host families, some 100,000 live in collective sites around Goma.
"Families in the sites around Goma are desperately in need and our teams have been ready to distribute relief items for days," said Ms. Bentein. "The only thing that prevented us and our partners from delivering was insecurity, as some of the sites suffered attacks and looting by armed assailants. We had no choice but to delay this distribution. But now that security allows it, there is not a single minute to waste, the clock is ticking."
More than 1,000 tons of supplies will be distributed simultaneously at sites in and around Goma over the next three days. Partners will provide each family will with a tarpaulin, three blankets, two sleeping mats, a 22-litre wash-basin, a 20-litre jerry can, a kitchen set, a female hygiene kit, three bars of soap, six metres of cotton cloth, and nine pieces of ready-made clothing for babies, children and adults.
"I have no spare clothes", said Neema, a 12-year-old displaced girl who was separated from her parents when she had to flee Kanyaruchinya camp in November. "When I need to wash my clothes, I don't know what to wear. Other children laugh at me. I feel so ashamed that I don't feel comfortable to go to school."
UNICEF staff and partners worked around the clock to coordinate and accelerate the purchase and delivery of supplies. Last week, 38 trucks arrived in Goma by road from Nairobi, Kenya, with 42,000 tarpaulins, 46,000 sleeping mats, 15,000 non-food items kits, 3,500 blankets and 5,000 kitchen sets. Half a dozen boats brought jerry cans from Bukavu to Goma.
So those most in need, especially women and children, receive the supplies, UNICEF coordinated the distribution with more than 210 staff from sister UN agencies and local and international non-governmental organizations including AIDES, AVSI, Care, Caritas Goma, Concern Worldwide, Handicap International, IOM, IRC, NRC, Oxfam GB, Première Urgence, Save the Children, Solidarités International, IOM, OCHA, UNHCR, UNOPS and WFP.
The distribution was supported by donors including the UK Department for International Development, the European Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, Common Humanitarian Funds and Pooled Fund and the governments of Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Sweden.