Rushing aid to thousands displaced by recent fighting

DR Congo

November 30, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps is working around the clock to provide aid and prevent a cholera outbreak among thousands of people who have fled their homes to escape the recent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mercy Corps staff in Goma - the city overrun by forces of the armed group M23 last week - are deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation there. More than 100,000 people have flooded in to camps already full beyond capacity. The organization is focusing its efforts on preventing a cholera outbreak among those who have fled their homes, providing clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as much-needed food.

Mercy Corps Country Director in the DRC, Mark Dwyer explained: “Thousands of displaced people are in and around Goma now, searching for a safe place for their families. Many have moved from one camp to another and back again across the last week, fleeing the fighting.

“Preventing cholera is our absolute number-one priority. In some areas right now there are over 200 people for every one latrine, and 700 people sharing a single hand-washing station. The combination of poor sanitation like this and a shortage of clean water makes water-borne disease a very real threat. Our engineers and staff are working around the clock to help bring water to more than 400,000 people here who need it, as well as building many more latrines and washing facilities, and training those living in camps on the importance of basic sanitation practices like hand-washing."

Mercy Corps is working hard to improve access to clean water in Goma. The agency has significant experience in this area as it has been working to build a city-wide water system for Goma's 400,000 inhabitants for the last two years. That system, as any other water source for families in the area, could prove critical in the days and weeks ahead.

“Right now people have access to on average only four or five litres of water per day per person, to cover drinking, cooking and washing. It often isn't clean, and it's just not enough. By shoring up what water supply there is, keeping emergency generators going, treating and trucking clean water in where it’s needed, and getting the massive city-wide water system we’ve been working on up and running, we believe we can increase the amount of clean water available to anywhere between 15 and 25 litres each per day – hopefully more – in the very near future.

“We have the chance to make a real difference here and prevent a very serious situation from becoming worse. We’re throwing everything we have at it.”

In addition to Mercy Corps' work bringing clean water and sanitation facilities to thousands in Goma, the team is distributing more than 1650 metric tons of food, providing shelter to 3,000 children living in camps, and in the coming weeks will support those who return to their homes in Goma and nearby territories with food-for-work programs and possibly cash transfers to buy emergency supplies.

Crucially, teams on the ground are also using GPS to map out the needs of those who’ve been displaced, to help redirect resources and support to where they're needed most.

Mercy Corps has worked in the DRC since 2007, supporting those displaced by the on-going conflict. Programs focus on helping communities work toward long-term recovery from crisis, by providing water, sanitation facilities and training, improving access to food and creating income generating opportunities.

Additional Resources

About Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps helps people turn the crises they confront into the opportunities they deserve. Driven by local needs, our programs provide communities in the world’s toughest places with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives. Our worldwide team in over 40 countries is improving the lives of 19 million people. For more information, see