A couple who survived the last flood disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo, stand in front of their damaged home. Photo: North Katanga Episcopal Area
UMCOR partners with the North Katanga Episcopal Area in helping communities in Kamina clean up river debris to reduce their vulnerability to future flooding
By David Tereshchuk*
Along the Kamina River of northern Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), thousands of families live in houses built of mud bricks, with no access to any formal sewage system.
An enduring fact of their lives—occurring at least once a year, mostly during the rainy season—is that the river floods. When it does, it often badly affects residents’ homes and livelihoods, reliant as they are on subsistence farming.
During the last serious flood, in February 2015, hundreds of homes collapsed and a huge number of latrines overflowed, contaminating the floodwater and spreading waterborne disease among the community.
The risky situation has historically worsened when families dispose of solid debris into the river, obstructing its normal flow. When the region’s heavy rains start, the downstream rush can easily get diverted and spill into the surrounding flat, swampy areas.
To get ahead of the risk, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with the North Katanga Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church to help Kamina communities organize themselves to clean up the river and reduce their vulnerability to future flooding.
Together for a common goal
|Mud bricks are laid out on the ground to dry where they will be used to help rebuild this couple’s damaged home. Photo: North Katanga Episcopal Area
“The church is acting as a community mobilizer, inviting all families along the river to work together for a common goal,” said Yovanna Troansky, executive secretary for UMCOR Disaster Risk Reduction.
UMCOR and the North Katanga Episcopal Area are providing communities with the tools they need for the clearance work, which, ultimately, will create a smooth flow for the river again, especially through the critical first five miles of its course.
They also are providing some 10,000 riverside residents with an essential education in the causes of the recurring disasters they have suffered and the preventive steps they can take to reduce their risk.
Preventing human suffering
"UMCOR’s actions are guided by the ‘humanitarian imperative,’ which states that ‘action should be taken to prevent or alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster or conflict, and that nothing should override this principle,” Troansky explained. “With this project, we want to be proactive, to prevent human suffering.”
She noted that the participation of the communities in training sessions and the decluttering of the river evidence their desire to be active in their own disaster risk reduction program. “They are contributing their labor and time to it and transforming the conditions that made them vulnerable to disaster. They are not spectators but doers,” she underscored.
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, will help communities like those in DRC’s northern Katanga province to reduce their risks of disaster.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.