The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially ended in 2003. However, there are ongoing conflicts and one of the world's worst humanitarian crises is taking place in the eastern parts of the country.
While Congo is rich in natural resources such as gold, diamonds and minerals, the ordinary, deprived population is not benefitting from this wealth. Congo is also characterised by a poorly functioning state government, impunity, corruption and inadequate education and health systems. Gender-based and sexual violence are major problems – and are used as strategies of war. Each year, thousands of women and girls are mistreated and raped. Rebel groups, DRC Army, police and civilians are all behind these attacks.
Despite this grim situation, there are signs of hope. Congo has a unique potential, with natural resources, fertile farmland and a population with the willingness and ability to rebuild their country, if conditions become favourable. By mobilising local people, both men and women, we see that change is possible.
Norwegian Church Aid started working in Congo in 1994 with emergency relief to refugees. Our efforts have gradually expanded and now include a comprehensive programme to combat gender-based violence, water projects, and work related to peace and reconciliation processes.
We work primarily through local partners, and activities are geographically concentrated in the provinces of South and North Kivu in Eastern Congo.
Gender-based violence: If we are to reduce the wide range of gender-based violence in Congo, both men and women must be involved in prevention efforts. Sexual violence must be addressed on all levels: individually, locally and nationally. The problem requires, moreover, a holistic approach.
Norwegian Church Aid’s support includes psychosocial measures for women who are victims of abuse. In Bukavu, Norwegian Church Aid supports a transit centre, Dorca’s house for women who are victims of gender-based violence. Dorca’s House is associated with the Panzi Hospital - the leading hospital in Eastern DRC. A new and larger centre is under construction.
In the years ahead, the centre could help a greater number of women with psychosocial support. They have been provided with competence in various skills such as functional literacy, vocational and livelihood skills. This will help them to reintegrate into society.
Women, Peace and Security: Norwegian Church Aid contributes to the protection of women and girls against all forms of sexual abuse in conflict situations (see above). Further, it is important to strengthen women's participation in peacebuilding initiatives. We do this primarily by raising awareness among relevant agencies - such as faith communities, local authorities and organisations - of the importance of having good leadership that also includes women. We support women, through knowledge and communication, to take leadership and to participate in decision making and peace processes.
Also, Norwegian Church Aid supports the important work of reintegrating demobilised child soldiers in Eastern Congo. Together with our partner organisations, we provide children and young people with vocational training and psychosocial activities.
Faith communities and peace building: The majority of Congolese are active in a faith community. Religious actors are therefore important and have great potential as peacemakers at both local and regional levels. Norwegian Church Aid contributes to strengthening inter-religious peacebuilding cooperation in the Congo. We also strengthen the churches and the religious networks' own capacity and knowledge on topics such as leadership, women's participation and work in peace processes.
Livelihood and trade: Most economically-deprived and vulnerable groups in Congo, including indigenous people, practise subsistence farming. A large number of producers of agricultural commodities are women, and they need support both to learn more efficient production methods and easier means of selling goods to the market.
Norwegian Church Aid facilitates greater use of savings and loan groups in the agricultural sector, where appropriate. Illiteracy rates are high among the poor, and support for education in reading and writing combined with training in agricultural practise and various community-related themes, such as gender equality and human rights, will be stepped up.
Water, sanitation and hygiene: Norwegian Church Aid provides people access to water and sanitation facilities. In addition, we spread knowledge about hygiene. In North Kivu, we have a comprehensive emergency programme in water, sanitation and hygiene, targeting internally displaced people and communities.
Coordination through the ACT Alliance
Norwegian Church Aid collaborates with other ACT members in North Kivu. We also coordinate our efforts with other organisations through work groups coordinated by the UN. In the coming period, possibilities for further cooperation and coordination with other ACT members will be included on the programme page.