The past month has seen movements of different armed groups and mass population displacement in the areas in the mountains where we work. My team and I were tasked with making a rapid initial assessment of the needs of the newly displaced in two villages. This was not something that I had done before. As always, MSF provides for the inexperienced. There was a 120 page manual with step-by-step instructions on how to set up an assessment exercise, collect data and implement whatever needs to be implemented.
Our team was appalled by the living conditions at the first village we assessed. There were more than 3000 people squatting in two schools and a church. Each family had a small area where they kept all their possessions, lived and cooked. They were using latrine facilities of their neighbors and the buildings. There were only 12 latrines available. They had no cleaning material and were using grass to clean themselves and the buildings. These people had no privacy and little dignity. They were hungry, cold and desperate. Later we learned that these people eventually moved to Kitchanga as they feared for their security.
The second village we assessed is the same village where our health centre is located. The landscape had changed dramatically from our last visit there. There were 2000 newly displaced people who had started building shelters next to our health centre. They had no latrines and were using the four latrines of our health centre. There was an outbreak of diarrheal diseases. Desperate for food, many of the families had sold all or most of their belongings. Families had only one jerrycan to transport and store water for their daily needs. Those who were lucky had 20L jerrycans. The not so lucky ones had small 5L ones or had to borrow containers from their neighbors. As we had a good contact network in the community, we were able to construct a couple of temporary latrines and a zone of defecation to relieve some of the pressure the displaced were exerting on their environs.
Much more needs to be done for these displaced people. We are visiting again next week to do a soap distribution and complete construction of 40 latrines.