Finland helps provide shelter to displaced Congolese families

A contribution of USD 1.9m from Finland allows UNHCR to strengthen the response in one of the most complex and forgotten displacement crises in the world.

A young boy from the Mbuti indigenous community plays with dogs at a makeshift site for internally displaced persons in Oicha, Beni territory, North Kivu. © UNHCR/Natalia Micevic.

It was in the middle of the night in October of last year when armed men attacked their village in Beni, North Kivu. 42-year-old Agnes saw no other option – she had to flee with her six daughters.

“We slept in the bush on the bare ground. It was so scary,” she recalls.

Agnes and her children are among the 500,000 people who have been displaced this year due to escalated violence in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The emergency in the large central African country is one of the most complex but forgotten displacement crises in the world.

In 2017, the humanitarian crisis in DRC deepened, and conflicts resurged. Today, a total of 4.5 million people are internally displaced within the country, and two million children are at risk of starvation. The crisis in DRC is also impacting many neighbouring countries; since the beginning of 2018, more than 120,000 Congolese have been forced to flee their homes, leave the country and seek safety abroad. Currently, the dire humanitarian situation has been intensified by an Ebola virus outbreak.

This year, Finland has donated a total of USD 1.9m to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Situation, a contribution which helps UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strengthen the operational response and bring life-saving aid to refugees and displaced children, women and men.

“Limited funding has been a major challenge for UNHCR operations across the DRC situation. This affects all sectors, including the provision of livelihood activities, especially to youth, as well as access to education and health. With earmarked and flexible funding from Finland, UNHCR is able to strengthen the response to boost protection activities for people inside DRC and in the region,” says UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Northern Europe, Henrik Nordentoft.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, human rights violations, such as sexual and gender-based violence, remain a serious problem. UNCHR works to restore and ensure the rights and dignity of people affected by internal displacement. Together with partners, UNHCR helps victims of violence find medical treatment and psycho-social support.

In addition, UNHCR’s response is focused on enhancing community resilience and peaceful co-existence between different ethnic groups, as well as delivering aid such as cash-assistance and non-food items to displaced households.

Agnes (right), 42, and her six daughters fled violence in their village in Beni territory in late-2017. They have been living in a classroom in a school in Oicha, Beni territory, North Kivu province for almost a year. © UNHCR/Natalia Micevic

Another focus for UNHCR is ensuring access to better shelters, as many internally displaced people in the North Kivu province have had to seek shelter in churches and schools.

This is the case for Agnes and her six daughters. Unable to return home due to the ongoing violence, they spend each night sleeping in a school in the nearby town of Oicha.

“We have to collect our belongings every morning and vacate the premises when classes start. We are left without shelter, even if it’s raining. We don’t have access to firewood or clean water. I don’t know how to raise my children living like this. It’s impossible to live this way,” Agnes says.

UNHCR is preparing shelter assistance for the most vulnerable displaced people in the region, and thanks to vital support from countries like Finland, Agnes and her children will soon be moved to a family shelter.

Finland as a donor to UNHCR

UNHCR is the largest recipient of Finland’s humanitarian aid. In 2017, the country donated USD 22m, making it UNHCR’s 11th largest donor per capita. In 2018, Finland has donated a total of USD 18.9 M thus far. In addition to a generous unearmarked contribution of USD 8.3 M, Finland’s funding supports the Syria Situation Response (USD 5.5 M), the Democratic Republic of Congo Situation (USD 1.9 M), and UNHCR operations in Iraq (USD 1.8 M) and Yemen (USD 1.2 M).