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Congo crisis: Concern back in Masisi

Concern’s team in North Kivu are now back in Masisi, in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The agency’s key programmes are located in this area.

Concern’s team travelled the 87km by road from Goma town – a drive that took nine hours – where they were based for the past week.

Reaching families

Before leaving Goma to travel to Masisi, Concern's team managed to supply 1,500 blankets to newly displaced families who had taken refuge in a vocational training centre on the outskirts of the town. Some of these displaced people had walked over 60km to escape the recent spate of fighting and reach the safety of this impromptu camp.

“There are 1,250 women and children inside this centre and 220 waiting outside,” according to Concern’s Area Co-ordinator, Fergus Thomas. “The ones inside will enjoy the protection of the high compound walls, the ones outside will be vulnerable and exposed. Among this group, there are 798 children under the age of five and 99 unaccompanied children. We were able to immediately hand over 1,500 blankets to contribute to alleviating their situation.”

Cholera outbreak

On the way to the camp, many of the displaced people fell sick with diarrhoea, malaria and vomiting. More than 30 were treated for cholera by agencies in the camp.
With the focal points of fighting shifting daily, Concern had been strongly advised against taking the road towards Masisi, which is the site of the agency’s current programme. It had not been possible to assess the situation beyond Goma town firsthand until a few days ago, when they finally reached Masisi.

Security concerns

“Travelling in well organised convoys around North Kivu has proved to be essential for security for humanitarian actors,” according to Fergus Thomas. “With more than ten attacks on NGOs just on the Masisi road, short of an armed escort, the convoy system has provided a safe and effective way to mitigate against armed attacks.”

“The changes in Masisi town are imperceptible, but if you look carefully in the dark corners along the main street, you can see some fairly heavily armed soldiers sporting light machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers. If you scan the hills behind the Concern base you can see troops moving like ants across the ridge of the high hills; moving artillery, preparing to defend Masisi town in what is universally recognised to be potentially the most bloody battle for the North and South Kivu provinces so far. Right now, our focus is on getting assistance to those that need it most in the camps.”

The team will be getting support to recently displaced families and some of the local families hosting them.

Concern plans to supply them with essential tools and seeds. Assessments of water and sanitation systems will also be undertaken as too will road and bridge rehabilitation around Masisi town and Rubaya.

Over one million people have been internally displaced as a result of the recent fighting in DR Congo, 250,000 of those since August. International efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between rebel CDDP forces and government FARDC troops are ongoing as the wider humanitarian situation continues to worsen.