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Getting back to normal life in Masisi

Fergus Thomas, Concern's Area Co-ordinator for Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is our guest blogger. In this post he tells us about getting Concern's programming back on track, after having to evacuate staff after recent insecurity. 

Concern’s first full day back in Masisi Territory started at five am, with the sounds of someone banging nails into corrugated iron and a fervent Pentecostal prayer meeting.  All within a range of less than ten metres.

Life is pretty normal in Masisi!

To my astonishment, the logistician was already up. Bristling with enthusiasm and pride in the fact that he had just taken a cold water bath. He hit the ground running an hour later and spent the day washing and drying clothes for distribution to internally displaced people (IDPs).  It seems one of the warehouses sprung a leak during our absence and some of the clothes got a bit grungy. Luckily, during our recent evacuation none of the stocks of supplies which we were about to distribute were robbed.

Language lessons

My first job of the day was to sit down with Olivier, our chief security guard, to learn how to get by in KiHunde one of the local dialects. I was pleased with the results but made nearly everyone grin at my very poor pronunciation. After a brief intensive language session, I set off to spend most of the day with Robert, Concern’s agricultural technical advisor. We drove back down the dirt track (which is, in fact a leg of the Route Nationale 1 of the DRC), to Katale.

Road rehabilitation

Along the way, we were greeted by groups of women digging and pounding the road. Despite the insecurity, in the last month, Concern has worked with IDPs living in the camps and local communities rehabilitating 15 kilometres of road. The leg from Katale, to the village of Mashake was part of this.

Suddenly, as soon as the good road had started it stopped. The road to Mashake resumed its previous long suffering identity as a dirt track, barely wide enough for a motorbike, let alone a 4x 4. We walked for about 2km, greeted occasionally by passing women carrying heavy sacks of coal and beans, often with a baby on their backs as well.

Agricultural projects

Finally we arrived at Mashake, where we took a look at a vegetable garden which had been supported by Concern. Leeks, onions, cabbage were all revelling in the fertile soil.

We spoke with a group of ten women beneficiaries,who had all been displaced from their homes, many of them were widows. A woman explained that with the money that she would make by cultivating seeds given to her in the project, she would be able to rent some more land and plant more.

Increasing income

We ended the day in Lushebere IDP camp. I spoke with the camp committee, who told me about new IDPs fleeing to Masisi. They gave me new ideas about how best we can support. I met a woman in the camp who was involved with the “Cash for Work” project on the roads. She told me she had used the money to pay the school fees for her children.

 

Just as I was leaving the camp a man stopped me, “Look at these children! They need new clothes! Will you look at the state of them?!”

I smiled to myself and said, “Give us a couple of days, the Logistician is just doing the laundry!”

 

This week Concern has started distribution of clean underwear and sanitary towels for women and second hand clothing to the 13,000 residents of the four IDP camps in Masisi and Lushebere.