When we think of humanitarian relief, we tend to envisage outsiders bringing things in to help people in need. However, the reality is that most of the time the first people to respond are locals who help their neighbours when a crisis strikes. I’m currently in Goma, Eastern DRC, where conflict and insecurity have caused displacement of thousands of people from their homes. We’ve just completed an assessment with local church leaders and our other partners on the ground to understand how this displacement of people has affected communities and what we can do to support them.
We found that 3,457 families – around 15,258 men, women and children in total – had moved to the stretch of land along the side of Lake Kivu after fleeing their homes in fear of their lives. We asked when they thought they might be able to return and no one knew. In Masisi, where most displaced families come from, there are still reports of violence every day. One man told us that he’d been woken in the night by militias raiding his village: “They barricaded the door of a neighbour’s house so the people couldn’t get out, then they set fire to it. They were all killed. Would you take your family back with that risk?”