RELAY’s Response to Devastating Floods in Uvira, DR Congo

MONUSCO documentation
MONUSCO documentation

The RELAY network of community leaders was established to connect the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Sub-Saharan civil society leaders who serve their local communities on a daily basis. Many leaders in our network are engaged by one or more humanitarian agencies to facilitate the implementation of their programs. Our experience suggests that most programs are at high risk of failure if they do not involve local communities in planning and implementation.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Uvira

Uvira is home to around 590,000 people at the extreme north end of Lake Taganyiaka on the border between the DRC and Burundi. When National Army and UN Peacekeeping forces aren’t repelling attacks from rebel groups such as the National Coalition of the People for the Sovereignty of Congo it is terrorized by natural disasters like the massive floods that struck the town in April and December 2020.

MONUSCO documentation

Immediately after the first round of floods wiped out 5,000 homes, severely damaged an additional 15,000 homes and killed scores of residents, the UN, NGOs, and the government of DRC devised emergency relief plans. MONUSCO forces are restoring and rebuilding damaged infrastructure, while erecting a 2-meter high protective seawall on the river Mulongwe. At least 375,388 CHF was deployed by the ICRC to support flood victims with first-aid, burials, sanitation, construction of latrines, and garbage dump sites. The relief response was laudable and sorely needed, but only covers a fraction of the losses incurred by the flood. Information about other relief responses is hard to come by and we have received multiple reports from leaders in our network about the absence of assistance.

On December 12, 2020, deadly floods struck again, this time four people died as the Kamvimira River broke its banks and flooded several districts of the town. Emergency response to both floods is bogged down by regional political instability, as militias are fighting over territory, and logistical issues, where roads and critical infrastructure are damaged or demolished by haphazardous floods. The operational challenges have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has prevented a significant amount of on-ground emergency response to take place.

RELAYs Ability to Reach People in Difficult Environments

As seven bridges collapsed, the facilities of the National Water Distribution Company were washed away or even destroyed by the flood, and COVID-19 continues to be an obstacle to on-ground emergency response, RELAYs community leaders remain available to implement relief measures locally in Uvira.

52 of RELAY’s 16,570 community leaders in 34 countries are currently located in Uvira and have been indispensable when dealing with the devastation residents have experienced during the floods. 21% of the population in Uvira remain homeless after the floods wiped out thousands of homes and damaged many more. RELAY’s leaders have devised an impactful local response where neighbors who didn’t lose their homes have provided food and shelter for otherwise homeless families. Without this response, thousands of victims would be added to the homelessness statistics.

The situation in Uvira remains dire almost a year after the first flood hit the town. Our leaders report that victims are starving with many families currently going days without food. Many children of the families who lost their homes during the floods have not returned to school as the families can’t afford school fees. There’s no free medical care made available to flood victims. There are two toilets per 350 families, and the continued reliance on the generosity of neighbors for food, shelter, and essential household items is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

The victims of the Uvira floods need assistance to get back on their feet and our leaders are ready to facilitate any help private individuals and the international emergency relief community are able to offer. We at RELAY are able to reach flood victims with micro-donations through our venerable leaders and have launched a campaign that will help victims regain their livelihood.

Please reach out to info@refunite.org if you’d like to collaborate with us on alleviating the pains caused by the Uvira floods. Micro donations through our campaign are sorely needed, a $10 donation feeds a family for two days. $30 is enough for a community member to receive medical support. As little as a $50 donation is enough to get a former grocer to reopen her small business.

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