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Lutheran Disaster Response

Democratic Republic of Congo: Renewed Fighting Leads to Growing Refugee Population

People displaced by fighting in Goma wait for assistance. Credit: Tarik Tinazay/DKH-ACT

In the Democratic Republic of Congo fighting has intensified, as the major city of Goma (pop. 700,000) was seized by rebel fighters. Caught in the middle are the hundreds of thousands of residents in the city. Lutheran church leaders around the globe are appealing to both sides for safe access for humanitarian aid agencies into the country and city. The situation has led thousands of residents to flee their homes to camps within the country as well as those across the borders in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

The ELCA, working through our membership in the Lutheran World Federation is helping to respond by providing water resources in the only settlement where recent Congolese refugees are arriving in Uganda. The Lutheran World Federation/Department of World Services programs in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are preparing to help people who have been displaced in the conflict. Helping supplement this work is staff from the Nairobi-based Regional Emergency Hub, set in place to help respond quickly and efficiently to disaster needs in East Africa. They will be assisting with assessments and support during the scaling-up of humanitarian efforts. The ELCA has been a major contributor to the establishment of these hubs.

In the coming days and weeks, a growing concern is the availability of clean water for affected populations. The worry is the potential for a serious outbreak of disease due to the unsanitary conditions. As things develop the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation will continue to focus on livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene related activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the refugee camps in neighboring Uganda.

As we enter into this season of Thanksgiving please raise a prayer for those affected by violence and potentially empty plates and cups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the many places around the world who do not have peace on this day.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Uganda Floods: Katana’s Story

The ELCA is partnering wiith LWF-Uganda to provide water and sanitation systems assist communities in the continuing storms and flooding.

“I dreamt of sleeping in a dry house”
submitted by Lennart Hernander

Katana Goretti , 35, lives about three miles from the Kampala City Center with her family.  A very busy woman, juggling several seasonal and short term small businesses, she was struggling with domestic violence and neglect.  Katana took it upon herself to provide for her five children. It was difficult; her business required her to spend most of her time away from home and unable to care properly for her children.  Katana said, “I never felt alive at that time, although I could breathe and walk. I had no confidence in myself.”

In 2007, ACTogether and members of the Slum Dwellers Federation mobilized and sensitized residents in her settlement about savings and working together to solve their problems.  She helped form a savings group and was elected as both the secretary and the collector. She participated actively and worked tirelessly to balance these new roles with her business and household responsibilities. “I started dreaming of sleeping in a dry house.  I was tired of sleeping in water and the children fell sick all the time,” she said.

Using her savings, Katana bought 4 bags of cement and presented them to her husband demanding that the family needed another house. “That shocked me a lot, but somehow we pulled it together and started construction,” said James who uses his carpentry and masonry skills to provide most of the labour for the construction.

“Participation in the federation activities has changed a lot of things in my life.  The first time my husband, James, saw the importance of saving was when he did not have money for school fees. I just withdrew money from my savings and paid the school fees”. James agreed to join the federation and start saving too.  The family is now united, sharing problems, joys and responsibilities.  Katana runs a small business in Owino, the biggest market in Kampala City. She plans to seek training in business skills and management to improve her current business as well as exploring new opportunities.

In addition to saving, some training on rights and responsibilities, problem solving and leadership skills was provided. The settlement she lived in was threatened with eviction and Katana actively mobilized the community to come together as a ‘single voice’ and demand Government protection from eviction. With support from LWF and ACTogether, the eviction was stopped.

Thanks to daily saving, the family has abandoned their old flood damaged house.  Katana’s dream of sleeping in a dry house is becoming a reality.  A wheelbarrow of cement, sand and bricks welcome you at the new three-roomed house being constructed with the savings of Goretti and James.  The raised foundation of the new house will help to keep them dry during times of flooding, protecting them from sickness and disease.LWF Uganda in partnership with ACTogether, a local non government organization, provide support to grassroots savings groups as they work to speak with a unified voice and play a significant role in driving change to improve living and economic conditions in their lives. Through the Slum Dwellers Federation, local savings groups in Uganda have established networks of mutual support and sharing, as well as representative systems to amplify the voice of the urban poor.