Forced to flee, no time to pack – support for displaced women in Congo
January 8, 2013 by The IRC
|A displaced woman living in a camp near Goma holds up a colorful pagne cloth garment, part of an emergency kit she received from the IRC last week. Photo: Aisha Bain/IRC|
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo -
When families are forced to flee, they run for their lives, grabbing their children and what little they can carry — leaving the rest behind. There’s often no time to pack the most basic items, even a change of clothing.
Thousands of women who fled recent fighting in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province are sheltering with their families in makeshift camps in and around the city of Goma. Their safety is at stake when they try to find a private place away from the crowds to wash themselves and their clothing. Another risk is infection, when women without spare clothes must put just-laundered garments back on before they have a chance to dry.
The International Rescue Committee is doing its part to help, delivering 3,000 emergency kits to women and girls that include extra sets of clothing, sanitary items, washing buckets and soap. The kits also include flashlights with extra batteries, and a whistle for women to signal for help if they are in danger. We plan to distribute 5,000 more kits in the coming weeks.
Aisha Bain, the IRC’s emergency team leader in Congo, described the recipients of the kits as “ecstatic.”
“We can’t believe this — we never have things just for us,” one woman told Aisha last week. “I am filled with joy and gratitude.”
Preventing violence against women
Violence against women tends to spike during times of crisis. The IRC is working in eight camps around Goma to educate men and women about ways to prevent violence. We're also making sure survivors of violence get the counseling and medical care they need.
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