"I have heard stories that I will nev​​er forget"

​​My first trip with Norwegian Church Aid was to D.R. Congo. It was a baffling encounter with a brutal reality.

Written by Dagfinn Høybråten, NCA General Secretary.

Congo was not randomly chosen. We have worked there for 25 years with wide-ranging efforts in both humanitarian crises and long-term development. The challenges there are many and great. But the results achieved in close collaboration with o​​ur partners give hope. This was confirmed in my meeting with the Congolese people and with our great NCA staff and partners.​

The water has co​me home

The focus for the Lenten Campaign is water and I wanted to see how we are working to provide access to safe and clean water and how we work with public health at a local level. Our visit with the people of Bushumba became a celebration. In this village alone, thirty thousand people now have access to a good and reliable drinking water supply.

Hand in hand with this project, public health in the village has improved through a systematic focus on improving sanitary conditions and hygiene. Together with the Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, we learned how this had led to fewer cases of infectious diseases and an overall better quality of life.

"The water has come home," the local village management told us as the rest of the village sang and danced around us.

Together with partners such as CELPA, a network of Pentecostal churches, NCA has helped to provide water to 330,000 people in East Congo just over the past three years.

A brutal r​eality

23 and 24 May, political leaders, experts, donors and civil societies will meet in Oslo together with the UN and the Norwegian Government. The purpose of this conference is to highlight the many that are affected by sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). In Congo, it was important for me to meet some of the survivors of the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war and conflict.

Together with the Norwegian Minister for International Development, we visited the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. Nobel Prize laureate ​Denis Mukwege has built up a treatment and rehabilitation hospital and center for women who are affected by SGBV. NCA has supported this work in various ways over the past 25 years.

Together with partners, we have built relief centers such as Dorcas House in Bukavu and Lydia's House in Goma. Here, survivors receive holistic care and help to be rehabilitated and reintegrated to society. My meeting with Denis Mukwege inspired me to help ensure this life-saving work continues and provided insights that I bring to the SGBV conference in Oslo.

But it was the meetings with the women who have survived the most brutal and degrading acts that made the strongest impression on me. I heard stories that I will never forget. There ​was deep despair, prayer for peace and cries for justice. No one goes untouched from such meetings. They require action. The Oslo conference will give the world a chance to do just that.