Briefing about our activities for the month of March 2021: We can neither ignore nor keep silence towards refugees in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Making D.R.Congo one among the best places in the world where refugees can enjoy their rights remains our focus. And our slogan for this year remains “refugees are not the problem but they have problems”.
During this third month of our intense activities aiming at creating more protection space for all refugees in North Kivu, we continue to observe various shifts and this is great for us to understand the dynamics surrounding refugees in North Kivu.
The reality is that despite the heavy presence of international humanitarian organizations in eastern Congo, refugees remain largely left out from the protection space. And little information is available in order to understand the existing efforts, the opportunities and the challenges.
However there is hope and we continue seeing some changes despite the challenges. On the side of the refugees, we continue seeing the increase in number of those who attend our briefing meetings every Sunday, for the first time in two years, UNHCR has programmed a meeting with refugee leaders and we observed also access to medical treatment to some refugees who were previously considered because of their geographical zones of registration.
This month also was marked by the ultimate death of the mother of urban refugees’ representative who died from her home because she was denied medical treatment by the UNHCR and her partners on ground that she was not supposed to be assisted from Goma, on ground that she was a refugee registered and living in Nyiragongo. This unfortunate incident which could have been avoided created emotional reactions among refugees and affected some our activities during the first week of March 2021.
We held three (3) briefing meetings at our offices and these meetings are done every Sunday from 2pm. During the first meeting, we discussed about “who is a refugee”? The second meeting we discussed on the available opportunities for refugees in terms of services, and the third meeting we focused on the challenges refugees are facing. A total number of 102 refugees participated in these meetings for the month of March 2021.
Small space for the meetings at our offices,
Need of training on refugees rights and obligations,
Lack of information about the work of UNHCR and CNR,
Refugees receiving information only either from political actors or from armed groups supporters and in this, information is not often accurate,
Looking for opportunities for a space which can accommodate at least 50 refugees per meeting, mostly to inquire from some churches in the area which are the only free options,
Dividing refugees in five groups (men, young boys, women, girls, and the elderly) and each group will have at least four leaders,
Putting in place key refugee resource persons who will be our contact persons in various refugee communities,
Write a letter to UNHCR and CNR for a meeting with refugees in order to clarify on some questions about services and protection issues which refugees have,
Putting in place a strong communication strategy in order to diversify the source of information to refugees and provide them with various options to access information,
In solidarity with urban refugee representative
In solidarity with the urban refugee representative who lost her mother due to sickness, our offices closed for three days and we all moved to her homme and then attended burial. We really appreciated the emotional support she received from other refugees who did not abandon her during those trial days.
However we observed the absence of UNHCR and all her partners who are involved in the protection of refugees, and the lack of their support towards the family. Basing on the information we received, we strongly condemn the failure of UNHCR and her partners to deny health care services to this woman during that time she need help in order to save her life.
Lack of financial support in order to cover burial and other funeral expenses,
Mobilizing refugees and other people of good will for various forms of contributions,
To continue advocating to UNHCR Goma to cover the cost for burial to all refugees especially the most vulnerable, and to make transparent the whole process in order to access the financial support for the burial,
To put in place a welfare team which will be in- charge of various social issues affecting refugees that can easily coordinate with the office,
To advocate for a facilitation fee to the office of the refugee representative who remain one among the key actors in the protection of refugees in North Kivu,
We continued receiving refugees who had legal issues and offered them orientations, 5 five needed legal advice, 2 needed to be accompanied to the Police and one case was referred to Court.
Discrimination by host communities especially when people in the host communities realize that the person they have issue with is a refugee,
Cases being reported to us late when they have failed to agree,
Some people being located at a long distance where we may not have means of transport to reach regularly,
Lack of community dialogue mechanisms
Develop a strategy on host community awareness and embark of campaigns focusing on both refugees and host communities,
Focus on at least one good case at Court and use it as example in order to change the attitude of the host community people who believe they can abuse refugees in total impunity,
Continue creating awareness among refugees on how to make agreements and help them to write agreements with local people,
To fundraise for our activities and work on partnership with other stakeholders,
Engage on community dialogues between refugees and the host communities,
We visited two health centers which offer services to refugees and had fruitful engagement with the health personal on how to improve the accessibility and the services. The biggest challenge is mainly the contract between health centers and UNHCR’s partners.
Many refugees are excluded from accessing health care services, while others can only access very basic services which do not address their major problems,
Health Centers being confronted to many challenges which are not included in the contract,
Lack of UNHCR field visits in to the health centers,
Lack of information to refugees;
Refugees are dying with sicknesses which could have been treated,
Need of research on issues surrounding health services to refugees,
Advocacy to engage actors who support health programmes in North Kivu mainly the USAID and the European Union to put in place friendly arrangements for refugees,
More attention should be put on activities and programs aiming at prevention through awareness,
Advocate to UNHCR to review and improve the contracts with health services providers,
To advocate for health services to be accessible to all refugees despite the their geographical zones,
During the month of March we published three Press Releases on the situation of refugees which were circulated to 368 emails of individuals and various stakeholders, but also in our social media plate-forms. One among them was to distance ourselves from the Joint Military Operations between D.R.Congo and Rwanda which may highly jeopardize efforts for the protection of refugees in the region.
Our whatsup messages aiming at sharing information with local population about refugees seems to be going well and it is one among the effective ways to engage with various people.
This month on March 2021 we received feedbacks and contacts from 117 people who reacted on our various posts, surprisingly these reactions are also going beyond the borders of DRCongo and are reaching to other refugees from other different countries.
Put in place a particular department which will focus on communication through social media,
Develop a social media strategic plan
Lack of funding to hire staffs, and the needed equipment such as computers, good phones and the regular internet connection,
We shall continue doing the little we can to engage people through whatsup where necessary,
We shall explore possibilities for fundraising and partnerships with other organizations,
We shall put in place a volunteer who can help in this field,
We managed to meet 4 local government local leaders, two religious leaders, one journalist and two representatives of political parties in Goma. This is still in our efforts to create awareness on the issues surrounding refugees and the need to ensure that refugees are fully protected.
The attitude issue is among the challenge whereby we are not often allowed to access offices of various NGOs because of the perception of the security guards, when they see people who are not in the vehicle they think these are people are coming to seek for help, and therefore it becomes impossible to access the offices,
We have a challenge with physical meetings with officers who are not often in the their offices and who have not particular schedule for audience,
Transport and communication are also another problem,
The issue of refugees we are bringing to table is also a challenge to many because it remains unknown,
We shall continue interacting with those we can at individual levels and share few things about refugees,
The most effective way is a Conference, a workshop, and public lecture among others,
Visits to refugees
We held visits to 6 refugees who were in difficult situations and who need our support. And on this we also held one meeting with the refugee leadership based in Goma.
So many refugees are in dire situation especially suffering from malnutrition, victims of violence, sexually abused and some of our members are getting affected psychologically with such situations,
There is a great need to have food, clothes and shoes for those who do not have them,
To look for psychiatrist who can help staff members in copying up with the situation,
To advocate for food to refugees and for a settlement for those who have nowhere to stay,
Compiled by Jackson Baguma