"We have begun distribution of clothes to 13,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the four camps in Masisi and Lushebere," reports Fergus Thomas, Concern's Area Co-ordinator in North Kivu.
In the mountainous climate of Masisi, clothing distribution serves the purpose of protecting people from the elements and restoring some dignity to a person who has lost everything else they own.
Masisi is where Concern's key programmes in North Kivu are located. It had been inaccessible to staff on the ground until a few days ago, due to the recent upsurge in fighting in the province.
Before being evacuated to Goma for security reasons on 29 October, Concern's team were involved in an emergency response programme, supporting people in IDP camps and distributing tools and seeds to the community in Masisi. They also directed a cash-for-work scheme to rehabilitate key access roads and bridges. Essential items like blankets, mosquito nets, soap and plastic sheeting were distributed to the people living in the four camps around Masisi.
Inside the camps, Fergus Thomas received very positive feedback on Concern's programmes from some of the displaced people.
"We spoke with a group of ten women who had been selected by Concern, with the communities as beneficiaries. They had all been displaced from their homes, many of them were widows," he said. "A woman explained that with the money that she would make by cultivating seeds given to her in Concern's project, she would be able to rent some more land and plant more."
It begins by listening
He continued: "In Lushebere IDP camp, I met a woman who was involved with Concern's Cash for Work on the roads programme. She told me that she had used the money to pay the school fees for her children. Such feedback gives us (Concern's team) great heart and drives us on. We also listened to the camp committee, who told us about new displaced people fleeing to Masisi to escape the violence, we discussed new ideas about how best we can work to support them. Everything begins by listening."
Late last week, Concern's team also managed to supply 1,500 blankets to newly displaced families, who had taken refuge in a vocational training centre on the outskirts of Goma. 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."
Over 1.3 million people are currently internally displaced by the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 250,000 since August alone.