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Working safely in Democratic Republic of Congo

World Humanitarian Day recognises aid workers themselves, not just humanitarian agencies, donor governments and foundations.

Peter McNichol, Concern Worldwide’s Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo, has just returned from a five day visit to Masisi, in the east of the country. It is an area hit hard by conflict over recent decades, so he is conscious of the risks aid workers take.

“Tens of thousands of people, have been regularly displaced due to fighting national and regional groups. The poverty of these people is excruciating. They depend on the support of the international community to survive. But they also hope to become less dependent over the coming year.

Supplies

“Concern has provided basic household items for those who have fled their homes. These include shelter, blankets and clothes to keep children warm, along with soap and clean jerry cans to reduce the increasing risk of diarrhoea.

Importance of education

“Recently mothers here, with desperate immediate needs, have made the difficult choice to pay school fees for their young children for another term. Education here is not free. Paying fees means having to forgo basic necessities.

Staff security

“Humanitarian workers take a personal risk every day to support those suffering in the area. Concern has twenty national and international staff based in Masisi town. As an organisation, we all take staff security seriously. Cars travel in convoy and communicate regularly. The base is protected by barbed wire and sandbags. Sometimes this is not enough. We have had to occassionally evacuate the area when the risk becomes too high due to encroaching conflict.
 
“Another agency was attacked, while in transit, last week. These attacks and the overriding risk, I know, play on the minds of the team.

Necessary presence

“As I join the convoy and begin the first security check on the radio, ready to head back to Goma, the team begin another day’s work in the field. The team are aware of the risks around them, but most definitely aware, too, of the people’s lives that depend on their presence.”