- More than 300 tons of food and other relief items were distributed to over 4,500 households in November 2022 and January 2023.
- According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 521,000 people, mainly women and children, have fled their homes since the beginning of hostilities in March 2022.
- The Rev. Henry Jean Robert Kasongo Numbize invited the displaced "to love each other and to trust in our God because all this will pass one day."
Mama Martha, 45, was overjoyed as she received emergency relief aid from The United Methodist Church in January. Head of a household of 11 people, Martha fled Kibumba, about 20 kilometers from her home, to take refuge with a host family in Goma.
“I thank God, who acted through his servants to help us. We had suffered a lot," she said, carrying a bag of rice on her back. One of her children helped her carry the oil can and other goods.
Since last year, The United Methodist Church has been helping displaced people in eastern Congo.
“In November 2022, we assisted 2,000 households in the Don Bosco Ngangi, Kanyarushinya and Kibati Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, and in January 2023 we supported more than 2,500 IDP households living with host families and in Goma IDP camps,” said Jean Tshomba, coordinator of the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s disaster management office in eastern Congo.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, the humanitarian and development arm of The United Methodist Church, provided $400,000 and the Global Health unit of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries provided $50,000 to support the displaced people. The funds were used to purchase rice, cornmeal, vegetable oil, salt, washing basins, 20-liter buckets and toiletries.
Tshomba said the people fled their homes because of the war to take refuge in Goma and other camps, and their situation is a major concern to the church.
According to data provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 521,000 people, mainly women and children, are living with host families or in sites for displaced persons in the Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Lubero, Masisi and the city of Goma.
There are more than 5.5 million displaced people in Congo, and at least 1.6 million of them have been displaced since the beginning of 2022, according to data from the United Nations.
Since March 2022, the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) reportedly resumed hostilities and were gaining ground in eastern Congo, where they have taken control of several areas in North Kivu.
The Congolese government and U.N. experts have accused its Rwandan neighbor of supporting the rebels and committing "war crimes" on its soil. The Rwandan government has rejected these accusations.
Bwiza Muhawe, 35, fled Buhumba near Kibumba, about 20 kilometers from the city of Goma.
“I am happy today because I have just found food, which will help my family of five survive for a few weeks,” she said. “My husband was murdered by the rebels and I am grateful to United Methodists for this assistance. May God bless you for your gesture.”
Nyirahabimana Mushi Daphrose, 52, also thanked the church for its assistance. Living in a household of 10, Daphrose said the food would keep her family fed for more than two weeks.
The Rev. Henri Jean Robert Kasongo Numbize of the Kivu Conference, which conducted the distribution, offered words of comfort to the beneficiaries on behalf of Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda.
“You are in the prayers of The United Methodist Church in East Congo through its servant and first pastor, Bishop Unda Yemba, which is why he is sending you this assistance today,” he said.
According to the report on the humanitarian situation in the territories of Rutshuru, Nyiragongo and Lubero, more than 324,000 people received humanitarian aid from October 2022 to January 2023.
The report noted that clashes in Masisi territory were forcing thousands more to flee their homes and persistent insecurity had severely hampered humanitarian access in these areas, depriving IDPs and their hosts of vital humanitarian assistance and protection services.
“The living conditions in these camps are unbearable with poor sanitation and hygiene," said Tshomba.
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Damas Lushima, health coordinator for the East Congo Episcopal Area, also lamented the conditions in which the refugees are living. “Without sanitary facilities, mosquito nets and safe water, thousands of people are exposed to diseases.”
Maombi Butare, 35, head of a household of five members and living with a disability, pleaded for the improvement of their habitat in this rainy season. “I plead with the church to think about building houses because we live in very bad conditions and we are afraid because of the incessant rains here in Goma,” she said.
Lushima said Global Health's funding would develop initiatives to promote a healthy environment in IDP camps.
“The church planned to set up mobile clinics, sanitary facilities and provide water supplies in the sites where the displaced people are staying thanks to funds made available by Global Health,” he said.
Lushima added that the advance of rebel troops and the insecurity in which the displaced were living in camps did not allow for the realization of all these projects.
At the launch of the distribution in Don Bosco Ngangi in November, Numbize encouraged the displaced persons "to love one another and to trust in our God because all this will pass one day.
“We will never forget you; we are your brothers and sisters in Christ and we share your pain,” he said.
With a smile, Martha said she prays that God will bless all the donors who have made it possible for The United Methodist Church to help people displaced by war in eastern Congo.
“I ask God to bless you, to raise you, to multiply your assets. Do not tire of helping the displaced people, and finally, may God grant you eternal life. Amen.”
Londe is a French news editor for UM News in the DRC.
News contact: Julie Dwyer, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist News, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
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