By Chadrack Tambwe Londe
October 12, 2023 | MALICHA, Congo (UM News)
- The fire swept through the Malicha spontaneous settlement for internally displaced persons, destroying around 4,000 small houses – almost the entire site.
- The cause of the fire was accidental, but it was the second fire to occur in the Malicha camp in the space of two months.
- The humanitarian situation on the ground is extremely worrying. Displaced people have lost all their possessions and are left without shelter, food or means of subsistence.
A fire has again ravaged the Malicha spontaneous site for internally displaced persons (IDPs), located in the Balala Sud groupement in the Mutambala sector of the Fizi territory in South Kivu.
This is the second fire to occur in the Malicha camp in the space of two months. The first burned down more than 1,000 makeshift shelters last August.
According to the chief of the Balala Sud group, His Majesty Ngena Milingita, the fire started at around 12pm, when a farmer was burning grass in his field near the site. The fire spread to the site, destroying around 4,000 small houses – almost the entire site.
“The problem is that the cottages in the latter are thatched from top to bottom, and when even a small fire reaches one of them it always causes damage,” said the traditional chief.
He added that this situation was becoming increasingly recurrent, and called on the United Nations to help the displaced by building sustainable homes.
“We’re asking the United Nations to help us build tin houses,” he said.
The Malicha spontaneous site is home to over 5,000 IDP households who fled clashes between armed groups in several villages in the middle and high plateaux of the Fizi territory in the DRC’s South Kivu province.
United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba of the Episcopal Region of Eastern Congo said he was deeply saddened by the loss and suffering caused by the fire.
”It’s a frustration for us by the fact that IDPs are still facing risks such as fires, when they have already been displaced from their homes and livelihoods due to insecurity” said Bishop Unda. ”Displaced people have already been through a lot and they don’t need to suffer another tragedy”
Mr. Unda expressed his anger at the injustice of the situation. He denounced the violence and insecurity contributing to the IDP crisis in Congo.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss and suffering caused by this fire. We express our sympathy for the victims and their families.”
Philippe Epanga, a volunteer with the Bureau de Gestion des Catastrophes in the Fizi area, said the fire was accidental and that the displaced people lost all their belongings.
After the fire on August 19, the displaced people were forced to rebuild their homes from scratch. Unfortunately, the new fire has once again put the knife in the wound,” said Epanga. All the household goods and foodstuffs they had already received from non-governmental organizations have been burnt to the ground. They have neither food nor a place to sleep,” he declared.
The administrator of the Fizi territory, Samy Kalonji Badibanga, pointed out that no lives had been lost in the Malicha camp, although the material toll was higher, because unlike the last fire, 4 more small houses were burnt down.
Ngena Milingita, the traditional chief, pointed out that measures are already being taken to prevent further fires, including raising awareness among displaced people of the need to build tree houses using mud.
Jean Tshomba, Coordinator of the Bureau de Gestion des Catastrophes (Disaster Management Office), declared that the humanitarian situation on the ground remains very worrying.
The humanitarian situation is particularly difficult for displaced people, who have already been victims of violence and insecurity. They now find themselves without shelter, food or means of subsistence,” declared Jean Tshomba. We are organizing ourselves to see how we can bring aid to these people who have been devastated by these repeated fires.
Tshomba declared that the reconstruction of destroyed homes and the provision of adequate humanitarian aid are priority actions to enable people to recover and regain some stability.
At the time of the first fire, Bishop Unda declared that the church and other partners can play a role in alleviating the suffering of the survivors.
”It is essential that the international community becomes aware of this situation and provides financial and logistical support to alleviate the suffering of those affected by this fire in the Malicha IDP camp”, he declared.
Londe is News Editor and Communicator of the Annual Eastern Congo Conference.