ORLANDO, Florida — In early May 2023, tragedy struck the Democratic Republic of the Congo as floods and landslides engulfed the South Kivu region. While the Democratic Republic of the Congo is certainly no stranger to natural disasters of any sort, the flooding in Kivu that took place between May 2 and May 4 has been particularly deadly, killing more than 400 people, displacing many others and impacting around 50,000 people total, according to recent estimates by state officials.
The floods have primarily affected the villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi, completely destroying 1,200 homes and damaging more than 3,000, according to Humanitarian Response. In addition, floods have destroyed critical infrastructure, as well as many of the region’s fields causing many to have their livelihoods washed away in the floods. Even after the worst of the damage, Kivu and its people still face many problems ahead.
The preponderance of rain and the destruction of clean water sources have raised concerns about the possibility of sickness and disease, including cholera according to medical experts in the area. Furthermore, thousands of people do not only need temporary shelters but must also eventually either move back to their villages to rebuild their homes or find new housing as a result of the flooding in Kivu.
Susceptible to Natural Disasters
The geography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo makes the nation particularly susceptible to natural disasters, specifically volcanoes and floods. Additionally, the nation consistently ranks as one of the poorest in the world with nearly 62% of people living in poverty. Thus, in addition to being particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is particularly hard-pressed when it comes to responding to said disasters.
Furthermore, the relatively frequent and consistent nature of these disasters means that it is immensely difficult for impacted areas to establish any long-term stability because they must continuously attempt to rebuild themselves from the ground up because of the consistent severity of the region’s natural disasters.
Additionally, those in poverty experience a greater proportional impact of natural disasters, according to the World Bank. The great difficulty that many in disaster-prone regions face when it comes to building sustainable incomes and livelihoods means that these disasters not only push people into poverty, but they also further perpetuate existing cycles of poverty as well
The Change is Necessary
The governments and NGOs are working to provide aid to people in the Kivu region, however, substantial systemic change is necessary. Many advocates argue that without the change, substantive and long-term improvement to the lives of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo is essentially impossible.
Kulihoshi Pecos, the organizational manager of Cojeski North Kivu, a political and humanitarian organization centered around providing aid and organizing young people in the Kivu region spoke about this in a detailed interview that he gave with The Borgen Project. Specifically, he noted that disaster planning measures by the country’s government are severely lacking and furthermore, that there had been a failure to fully address even the impacts of disasters that had taken place several years prior to the onset of the flash floods, such as the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in 2021.
In addition, Pecos also noted that plans for disasters, when they are in place, are often infinitely more reactive than they are proactive. The natural consequence of such an approach means that progress will always be set back by the latest disaster and that every step forward will be met with two backward unless a paradigm shift occurs.
NGOs Providing Relief
Though the governmental response has been lacking in many ways, and recovery efforts have been notably difficult due to subpar infrastructure and flooded roads, many independent groups are playing their part on the ground with those who the flooding in Kivu has impacted. Organizations such as World Vision and Tearfund have organized fundraisers going to those who the flooding affected the most in Kivu and are providing humanitarian aid to those whom they can reach
Cojeski North Kivu has also worked to provide aid to those in the area and, though limited in funds, has made an effort to capitalize on volunteers, human resources and relationships with other local and regional organizations. In addition, organizations such as UNICEF are making efforts to set up temporary health care facilities in the area, to search for those still missing and to provide sanitation and clean water to the areas where floods have destroyed such facilities.
While this aid has been incredibly beneficial to those who have received it thus far; advocates in the region continue to emphasize that there must be much more beyond this. Pecos from Cojeski North Kivu emphasized that “All of these organizations eventually vanish, help only stays for one or two or three months. Even with this relief, people still need to rebuild their lives, and for this, nothing is done.”
In short, these matters need more attention, even long after it becomes a trend or popular to do so. Long-term attention, awareness and aid are all necessary for a real effort at disaster relief and long-term sustainability both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in other nations as well.
– Alexander Pommells