The beaches on Lake Tanganyika are just a few miles away. It is deserted, except for the fishermen who come at dawn and sunset. The wind ripples the water and we almost forget we are staring at a lake, and not at the sea. But in the peri-urban and urban areas of Kalemie, a town on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tension can be felt. Since the beginning of the year, the village has been enduring a series of conflicts between two groups: the hunter-gatherer Pygmies and the Luba, a Bantu ethnic group that lives in the Tanganyika province. The war between the Pygmies and Luba is ancient. Yet, in the last year, the war has worsened and grown that it is now affecting the whole region. Hundreds are dead and almost 365,000 people are displaced.
“I ran away and I walked more than 35 kilometers to reach Kalemie,” says Lucille. “Most of those who were living in my village, one of the most affected by the conflict, had to flee.”
Local families in Kalemie do what they can. They welcome newcomers but are not able to provide assistance to such a high number of displaced persons. The result is a transformed town exploding in makeshift camps, created quickly to accommodate those who have lost everything and continue to arrive in this little town on the lake.
In response to the conflict, AVSI, present in DRC since 1972, is supporting the population through the Alternative Responses for Communities in Crisis project. Funded by UNICEF, ARCC III is a multipurpose cash assistance program. The main goal is to intervene with an unconditional cash transfer approach to help households start over.
In April 2017, AVSI was able to reach 12,000 families and distribute $870,000. Each household received $72. This is the largest humanitarian intervention ever done by AVSI in the DRC. 72,000 people were assisted through an approach that gives beneficiaries the freedom to choose how to address their needs in the most appropriate way.
Before receiving the cash transfer, families need to attend an awareness-raising session organized by the implementing partners to help use the money wisely and teach them how to count the banknotes and purchase goods on the market. The sensitization sessions also aim to raise awareness of what are the most pressing needs, how important it is to pay school fees for the children or how it is recommended that priorities are discussed in the family, with the presence of all members.
“I will repay the loan I made to send my son to school and finally I will have money to buy food, ” says Lucille.
Behind her, in line, her old neighbors wait patiently to receive their checks. One by one, they are identified to ensure they are the correct beneficiary and are able to receive their check. Then, they take the check to the bank built for the project a few miles away.