Democratic Republic of Congo:
Floodwaters from the heavy rain on the Ndjili River that plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital of Kinshasa have receded and most of the 50,000 displaced residents have returned to their homes. These people were from the capital city's poorest neighborhoods.
Catholic Relief Services and its local partner, the Archdiocese of Kinshasa's Diocesan Development Office, will continue working to prevent future flood risks. Major structural problems such as clogged drainage canals and tributaries still remain unresolved, presenting a problem for the affected areas until the end of the rainy season in May.
Catholic Relief Services and sister agency Memisa-Holland responded to the appeal of Mgr. Nicolas Djomo, Bishop of Tshumbe for medical supplies. The agencies sent 12 tons of emergency medical supplies for over 850,000 people in Thsumbe and neighboring Kole Dioceses. The Diocese of Tshumbe is located in the very center of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The medical supplies were airlifted from Kinshasa, across cease-fire lines, and arrived in Tshumbe, accompanied by the Bishop, shortly before Christmas. The dioceses' health facilities suffered from destruction and looting in the wake of troop movements dating back to the Spring of 1999 when Tshumbe fell under Rebel control. Along with the supplies, Catholic Relief Services sent six bicycles, which were used to transport and distribute the medicines to the hospitals and health centers throughout the region.
CRS/Democratic Republic of Congo is also providing emergency food aid to refugees who have fled the fighting in neighboring Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). CRS/Congo continues to monitor the situation closely in Eastern Congo.
Rwanda is still situated in a vulnerable position regionally, due to the current conflict in Congo. The country continues to suffer from the aftermath of the 1994 war and genocide, which has created an atmosphere of distrust among Rwandans. To counteract this situation, Catholic Relief Services will implement a large-scale program on peace building among Rwandan youth.
In late 1999, the "Peace-Building among Rwandan Youth" program conducted a month-long solidarity camp for over 400 youth in the dioceses of Kabgayi. These camps involved youth in discussions about Rwandan history, the need for solidarity, human rights and reconciliation. The children participated in community welfare projects, including brick making for reconstruction of a local school and helped to clear debris off of local roads. Through this experience, the agency hopes that the Rwandan youth will learn the benefits of living and working together in peace.
This program is being offered in three other dioceses throughout the first six months of 2000. The next step in the program will be an introduction into secondary schools as a part of civil education training. Catholic Relief Services should reach approximately 25,000 Rwandan youth between peace building curriculum in the youth camps and secondary school training.
Catholic Relief Services is one of only a handful of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provided much-needed agricultural rehabilitation and assistance in the Gisenyi Prefecture in northwestern Rwanda. The agency helped 11,000 people return to their homes and helped increase food output. They yielded 1300 metric tons of potatoes and 785 metric tons of mixed vegetables.
Large-scale ethnic violence has plagued Burundi since 1993. The death toll has surpassed 200,000 and over a million individuals have been displaced from their homes. Catholic Relief Services has been involved since the onset of the crisis in 1993.
Given this constant activity, the agency has become - for two years - the United Nations/Non-Governmental Organizations lead agency in Burundi for the nation-wide non-food items focus (including doing needs assessments, distributions, coordination, compiling stock of relief items, etc.)
Over 300,000 people have been forced from their homes into camps in the hills surrounding the capital city of Bujumbura. The military used this as an attempt to stop rebel attacks against the city of Bujumbura. The rains have begun and people, primarily women and children, are lacking descent shelter --living in makeshift banana leaf huts. They are also in desperate need of food and sanitation.
Catholic Relief Services has distributed 15,500 pieces of plastic sheeting for shelter, 35,600 blankets, and 76,000 pieces of soap and 14,800 water cans for potable water to 140,000 people. Catholic Relief Services continues to distribute additional food donated by the United Nations World Food Program.
There does not seem to be an end in sight to these types of camps which means that food and non-food distributions will need to continue to alleviate the suffering of the regrouped populations.
Background of the Situation
The Great Lakes region in Africa has been gripped throughout this decade by ongoing political, security, social, and humanitarian crises. Continued insecurity in Rwanda and Burundi have intersected with political/ethnic conflict and now civil war in Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and even more displacement in one of the most complex emergency situations ever known.
Catholic Relief Services remains committed to the people in these countries. Having worked in the region since the mid-1960s, the agency has supported food distributions and health projects and numerous emergency responses.