Finn Church Aid (FCA) provides support to poor communities that take in Burundian refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A total of 500 households have received financial assistance and support in entering business.
Unrest, which started in April, has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes in Burundi. A major portion of these refugees have sought safety in DR Congo, which shares a border with Burundi.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest nations in the world, and the refugees have ended up in the region of South Kivu, which suffers from great need even on a Congolese scale. The sudden rise in the number of refugees puts a heavy strain on the already feeble resources of the villages in the region. Yet, many families have welcomed refugees into their homes.
FCA focuses on assisting the communities which have taken in refugees in South Kivu.
“Many of these families consist of only women and children”, notes FCA Humanitarian Coordinator Frédéric Fessard.
“Many of these families have next to no wealth. Yet, they have decided to share their limited space and food with the refugees.”
FCA has offered 500 families with assistance and training on income generating activities and small-scale business planning, so that they can use additional income on the education of their children. Also, small financial support was given to families that shelter refugees. The sum was to be used to set up new small-scale businesses. The money was handed through mobile phone sim cards.
“FCA has not only encouraged me to help those who face difficulties. It has also taught me that I can use a sim card as a purse. If only it could also bring back my youth”, says 80-year-old Maramuke Ngali.
Over 14,000 Burundian refugees have entered South Kivu since April. Most of them now live in the Lusenda refugee camp. Over 6,000 however are settled in the small communities in the region, including Lubarika and Luvungi, where FCA operates.
The project is part of a common effort by ACT Alliance, a network of church affiliated aid organisations, to assist the Burundian refugees.
Fessard emphasises that supporting the host communities is important both for the refugees and the communities.
“Firstly, the aim is to assist the communities to deal with the extra strain the refugees pose on them. Secondly, we want to ensure that the communities are able to take in more refugees, should the situation in Burundi continue to deteriorate”, he explains.
“Finn Church Aid has given me hope and comfort. They came to help me, when I welcomed people into my home, even though I, too, am poor”, says Zawadi Mapendo, 41 years old, living in Luvungi.
Text: Satu Helin
Photo: Finn Church Aid
Finn Church Aid is a member of ACT Alliance.