ACF Targets Water and Sanitation Needs in Crisis in Eastern D.R. Congo

Lack of clean water and sanitation threatens hundreds of thousands in North Kivu

A fragile lull in the fighting in North Kivu has allowed access for the humanitarian assistance needed by hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing insecurity in the eastern D.R. Congo. The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger / ACF-USA is currently focused on improving water and sanitation conditions in the camps where the displaced have relocated, but acknowledges the urgent need to reinforce programs aimed at addressing malnutrition while monitoring food security at the household level.

“The threat of major water-borne epidemics has been contained for the moment, thanks to initial emergency interventions, but access to clean water and sanitation in the camps remains a major issue,” explains Etienne Faubert, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in the Eastern D.R. Congo—“the situation can very quickly deteriorate as many cholera cases are still being reported in the area.”

Action Against Hunger’s emergency interventions target several camps of up to 12,500 people with regular distributions of clean water, construction of some 300 latrines, distributions of thousands of clean jerry cans (for transporting potable water from clean sources), and the provision of up to five tons of soap. ACF’s field teams have also held routine community training sessions to promote the importance of hygiene in the prevention of cholera and water borne diseases. In the case of a sudden outbreak or epidemic, ACF’s field experts have prepared the materials needed to quickly launch chlorination activities of all water and sanitation points in the intervention area.

ACF’s field teams in neighboring Uganda have also launched interventions in southwestern Kisoro—along Uganda’s shared border with the D.R. Congo’s North Kivu province—in camps where thousands of Congolese refugees have relocated. ACF’s humanitarian activities on the Ugandan side of this regional crisis also hinge on the emergency provision of clean water and access to proper sanitation.

Action Against Hunger has launched a broad survey to assess the nutritional and food security needs of the displaced. “When security allows it, some of the displaced periodically return to their fields to prepare their crops for January and February,” states Mr. Faubert, “but we still need to get an accurate sense of the extent to which crops have been destroyed, pillaged, or abandoned, in order to define the level of assistance these communities may need in the near future.” Indeed, poor harvests this year would mean a scarcity of seed stock for the next planting season, threatening to reinforce a vicious cycle of food insecurity over the mid term.

The nutritional situation remains fragile even if currently under control with the support of humanitarian organizations—the number of malnourished individuals was high even before this latest round of displacement. In response, ACF has begun extending its support to national health structures—providing expertise in the detection and treatment of malnutrition in three new nutrition centers along the shore of Lake Kivu (in addition to the 14 nutrition points already supported in the Kivus)—while training local communities to detect cases of malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger in the D.R. Congo

Action Against Hunger has worked in the D.R. Congo since 1996, implementing programs in nutrition, food security, water and sanitation, and capacity building at the local and national levels. Targeting areas affected by conflict and nutritional crises, ACF currently works in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Bandundu, Katanga, Orientale, Equateur, and Kasai Oriental, supporting some 700,000 beneficiaries through integrated programs aimed at restoring self-sufficiency.