The heavy rains in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) caused a landslide that devastated a village in Tara, Ituri Province.  This would be a challenging response, but it was also a response that the DRC Red Cross had been trained for as part of the SERA (Capacity Strengthening for Emergency Response in Africa) initiative – now it was time to put their training into action.

The situation:

In August 2017, heavy rains caused a landslide that killed over 200 people. Early reports stated there were 74 households totally destroyed, 33 deaths, 174 missing (and presumed dead), and 280 children who were now orphans. The need for humanitarian support was urgent.  

The challenge:

The DRC Red Cross does not have a permanent presence in Tara, and there were challenges to getting access to the people who needed help. This is a remote fishermen village and accessible only by water or air (chopper). Because of the presence of local militias, the Red Cross was initially not able to secure access to the people who had been affected.

Putting training into action:

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has seven fundamental principles that guide every program and activity. Among these principles are neutrality and impartiality.  Basically, they respectively mean that the Red Cross does not pick sides, the goal is simply to provide assistance to the most vulnerable and it endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress. With these principles in mind, members of the DRC Red
Cross used the tools they had learned during Humanitarian Diplomacy training, and gained access to the area where they could deliver much-needed aid.

Once they arrived, the team conducted assessments to determine what sort of aid was needed, and who needed it most. Before they had gained access, supplies had been air dropped, so it was important to find out who had not yet received any aid. This meant, using trainings and tools that had been introduced by SERA, right down to the logistics used to quickly ship supplies from the nearest warehouse.

The Red Cross also helped to provide first aid to people who had been injured, and evacuated six people who had been seriously injured to hospitals. Part of their work also included helping to carry out safe and dignified burials of 26 people after their bodies were located.

This response was a real success for the Democratic Republic of Congo Red Cross, who were invited to establish a permanent presence in the area following this intervention.

With support from the Government of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross helps strengthen the capacity of partner countries through the SERA initiative, often this is through training such as the trainings that were used in this response in DRC.