In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, millions of people are living in fear, desperately hungry, and seeking refuge from armed rebels. The sound of gunfire is a constant reminder of the threat that surrounds them as they witness killings and kidnappings by guerrillas who have taken control of the main roads and villages surrounding Goma.
Fleeing from the violence, they find themselves huddled together in the homes of strangers, struggling to survive as theconflict cuts off essential food supplies. By June, it is estimated that 26.4 million people will be acutely food insecure, with 2.8 million children already suffering from acute malnutrition.*
For the deaf community in the DRC, the situation is even more dire. Often neglected and abandoned by their families, they face an uphill battle to survive amidst the ongoing crisis.
However, thanks to the support of partners like you, WorldShare’s Ephphatha Centre for the Deaf has been able to deliver much-needed food packages to households within the deaf community in recent months.
As you join with WorldShare partner HEAL Africa, you’re helping children in one of the world’s largest displaced peoples’ camps impacted by the conflict who are battling to survive.
To see how your contributions are making a difference, watch Rochelle Nyatoro’s report on the Goma crisis after speaking with Charmant, the Director of Ephphatha.
Keep an eye out as we continue to share updates from our partners on the ground over the next few months.
Here’s the video transcript.
So I spoke to Charmant on Monday morning. He was sharing with me about the current situation at that time he said it was relatively quiet, but M23 presence was literally every major road in and out of Goma is occupied by the rebels. So they’re essentially choked off in terms of supplies from the rest of civilization.
They’re really struggling with access to food, access to medication for the clinic. The whole situation is very dire in that sense. And because of the continued presence there, that means there’s continued to be influx of displaced people. Into the local community. So spoke to Charmant Monday morning and by that afternoon there had been new wave of rebel activity. They’ve taken over another village in town outside of Goma, and they’re starting to push in into Goma again. So essentially, all hope for the ceasefire that was supposed to start on Tuesday has now gone out the window.
So that’s where they’re currently just sat. They were saying even when they’re not actively attacking the fact that they’ve just essentially held the city in a chokehold is causing a lot of just issues in the area. And they’ve already been experiencing a lot of food issues and food stability issues, especially with the war in Ukraine and supply chains and how that’s impacted all of that as well.
That’s the situation on the ground. We did support them with funds for an emergency relief project, which they conducted in January, which is they’ve essentially used their network to identify displaced households from within the deaf community that were needing support.
And so they were able to support those families with some food packages, it’s a drop in the bucket of a problem that is growing bigger by the day.
And where the effects of this they feel will be very long lasting, it’s going to be a long while before the displaced families are really able to go back. People running from areas where there wasn’t any kind of security into Goma, which is a fairly secure location. And so that’s why they’ve said the likelihood of the rebels completely overrunning Goma is terribly high. It’s possible, but not likely. Which is why they’re using that strategy of just sitting at the door. They’re just essentially because they know they can’t fight them, so it’s essentially trying to starve them into position of having to negotiate. So Heal Africa is actually working in collaboration with, essentially all of the NGOs in Goma to strategically address the issues.
And each NGO based on your specialty and the level of their resources are given assignments. And because of Heal Africa’s history, they do a lot of work around trauma response as part of their regular programming. And so that’s what they’ve been asked to come in and do, and it’s a project that WorldShare has been supporting since the Nyiragongo volcano eruptions, is in these situations. You’ve got hundreds and thousands of children that have just experienced these traumatic events and are now just all grouped together in these displacement camps. And Heal Africa is doing a lot of work there with the children and their parents and their family, but a lot of that is trauma response and counselling that’s happening there.
That particular mode of intervention has become their specialty. So they were asked to do that. And I think initially we provided funding for two centres and they’ve had to stretch the funding for two centres to establish three. So they’ve been essentially asked by the NGO communities to say, “Hey, we don’t have anybody who’s able to do anything to address the needs of the children in this.”
And it’s the hierarchy of needs type of thing. Yes, we’ve got the food, shelter thing, but safety and that feeling of safety is a really important thing.
So pastors and people who live in Goma who’ve had to then open up their houses to accommodate family, friends, strangers that have been displaced and coming in. The situation in the displacement camps is not good so people go there as a last refuge. So families that are already in Goma that are living through a Goma that’s been impacted by Covid, by conflicts, they’ve been dealing with the flow on effects of the situation in the Ukraine.
So Goma was already in a really strategically, very unbalanced place in terms of just the financial strains on the families that were there. And then now with this addition I think I was reading somewhere where Charmant was saying that he’s taken in like maybe three or four other families that are living with him. And so going from being barely able to feed your own family and then now you’ve got four other families that are under your roof and you’re all trying to somehow survive.
The sheltering bit is where the church and the Ephphatha community have essentially opened their doors to displaced people to be able to host them, so they’re hosting displaced families. And then the food program was to supplement those that are doing that to help them with that. And a big part of it is just even the effort of sourcing the food. So having to utilise their networks and their kind of position, because it’s a lot easier for them as an organisation to go and try and source food in the current climate than it is maybe for an individual to have to go out on the street and try and buy a bag of rice.