DR Congo

DR Congo: Handicap International reinforces team in Goma and starts food distribution

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On Thursday 30th October Handicap International reinstated its activities within four camps around Goma, Mugunga 1 and 2, Bulengo and Buhimba. Staff members have confirmed that the number of internally displaced people has increased dramatically. "The people have often not been able to find shelter and have to sleep outdoors. They try to protect themselves from the cold by wrapping themselves up in cloths, cardboard and banana leaves," explains Eyal Reinich, co-ordinator for Handicap International in Goma. The need of both those who have been displaced and the local population in North Kivu is considerable. Safety is not being guaranteed and there is a continuing lack of drinking water, food, medicine and tents.

The reaction of the camp inhabitants to the presence of Handicap International has been particularly positive. "It is really heart-warming," says Eyal. "Many people have thanked us for staying and continuing our work." Handicap International focuses on the displaced children, who are the first victims of malnutrition and who often develop respiratory problems. Respiratory physiotherapy helps to loosen mucus when it can't be coughed up because the children are too weak. Malnourished children also run the risk of becoming disabled through anaemia and iodine deficiency. "Since Thursday, our teams have gradually found the different families of the children who we were previously working with. The majority fled from the camps, but was not able to go anywhere, so they have returned in the meantime."

There are also 50,000 newly displaced people within Goma itself. The majority of them find shelter with families, but according to a count by Handicap International, there are 1,800 people at two locations in the city without appropriate provisions. Handicap International and other organisations start today with the distribution of BP-5, protein rich, concentrated biscuits for malnourished children and their parents.

Handicap International restarted its activities at the therapeutic feeding centre in the Virunga hospital on Friday as the rehabilitation of children with malnutrition during or following their stay in the centre is a priority. The organisation has seen a two-fold increase in the number of children needing treatment. There are 139 children being treated for serious malnutrition.

Today Handicap International sends two physiotherapists and extra paramedical equipment to reinforce the team that is already in place. As of Thursday, the French section of Handicap International will also send an emergency response team to North Kivu to provide support for those who have been displaced.