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New wave of displacement strains water supply

DR Congo, December 19, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Reuters/James Akena, courtesy Thomson Reuters Foundation - AlertNet  </span>
    Juane, 5, displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo, sits next to her family's makeshift shelter overlooking Mugunga IDP camp, outside of Goma. Photo: Reuters/James Akena, courtesy Thomson Reuters Foundation - AlertNet
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Allison Huggins/Mercy Corps  </span>
    New equipment will increase the amount of water available at tap stands like this one throughout Mugunga 3 camp, which is now home to more than 100,000 people who have fled the conflict in and around Goma. Photo: Allison Huggins/Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is ramping up efforts to get more water to families who continue fleeing the volatile situation in Goma. Teams are focused on maintaining sanitation and increasing the water capacity at Mugunga 3 camp, where the population has ballooned to more than 15,000 people.

Needs increased last week when troop buildups and movements around Goma fueled a new wave of displacement. People are afraid of renewed fighting between armed rebels and government forces.

"Friday was ominous," Deputy Country Director Allison Huggins explained on Tuesday. "I saw dread on people's faces when they heard the troops were moving and there was a possibility that violence might start up again."

Many families decided it was safer to leave their homes for camps already crowded with people who fled previous battles. They are making do with small makeshift shelters built from sticks and sleeping on the ground of volcanic rock.

"There are a lot of heavy rains right now," said Huggins. "People are lucky if they have a tarp. Most have nothing more than a cooking pot. It's pretty grim."

Camps are especially in need of additional sanitation facilities and clean water to prevent cholera from spreading through the increased population. We are building latrines and showers, educating families about maintaining hygiene, and bringing in additional generators and pumps to increase the amount of water available to each family.

"Water is our expertise here. We can really make a difference," Huggins added.

These efforts build on the emergency response that Mercy Corps initiated at the end of November, when M23 rebels invaded Goma and occupied the city for 11 days before agreeing to withdraw to the city's outskirts.

Mercy Corps provided emergency water and shelter to those displaced by the battle, including 7,000 children, many of whom had been separated from their parents during the fighting. We also began work on sanitation facilities in the camps and, because the city's power lines were severed during the conflict, worked with partners to restart the municipal water system using emergency generators.

While we work to expand services for even more displaced families, our teams also continue progress on a new extension of the city-wide water system. After three years of construction, the large-scale infrastructure will soon supply reliable water to 400,000 Goma residents who currently have little to no access to clean drinking water.

Mercy Corps has been working from Goma since 2007 to support vulnerable families by promoting sustainable livelihoods, food security, and good governance. We've been working with partners to rehabilitate Goma's municipal water network and are active in more displacement camps throughout the province to provide access to water and sanitation services.

How you can help

  • Follow the latest updates on Mercy Corps' response to conflict in eastern Congo and share stories to raise awareness and support.
  • Donate today. Your gift will support the urgent needs of those displaced from Goma and help other families through crises around the world.