Congo: Responding to Survivors of Deadly Explosion

  • 16 May 2012

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo--- On 2 March, a series of early morning explosions in the Mpila munitions reserve shattered a densely populated neighbourhood in this capital city. The blasts were catastrophic—over 286 people were reported dead, 3,000 were injured and 15,000 people instantly became homeless. The exact cause and circumstances of the explosions are still under investigation by a judicial inquiry.

Procuring tents and medical equipment was a priority, as heavy rains were expected. UNFPA responded quickly to the emergency by attending to the needs of women and girls, who were especially made vulnerable during this crisis.

A rapid response

Medical teams were deployed from France, Morocco and South Africa with equipment to treat the many patients waiting for surgery or medical care. Two ambulances were made available by UNFPA to the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Humanitarian Action coordinated the humanitarian response and delivered donations of food, water, medicines and other non-food items.

UNFPA also donated over 3.6 tons of emergency reproductive health kits to the Ministry of Health and Population. This donation included clean delivery kits for pregnant women, as well as contraceptives, condoms and medicines to treat survivors of sexual violence. Dignity kits were also distributed by UNFPA, including sanitary pads, cloths, soap and other supplies to 400 women, with an additional 1,100 kits on their way.

Addressing sexual violence and identifying those in ne

UNFPA leads the United Nations work on gender-based violence in the Republic of Congo. “Women are more exposed to violence when they are displaced and social ties are broken. It is essential to carry out sexual violence prevention initiatives and to provide medical and psychosocial assistance for those who survived violence,” explained David Lawson, UNFPA’s Representative in the Republic of Congo.

One of the major difficulties faced by humanitarian actors was to identify all people impacted by the explosion. Although most people who lost their homes settled in one of the nine sites established by the Government, some also took refuge with host families. These people living off-site are also considered as displaced and could benefit from aid provided at the site of the crisis. Together with UNHCR, UNFPA provided equipment and manpower to facilitate this complex registration process. Around 15,000 displaced people were then identified, the majority of them women and girls.

The way forward

Mine clearance experts have been assisting the Congolese army in removing and destroying 16 tons of unexploded weapons from the military reserve area. This thorough process could take up to several years. Two months later, many students are now back to school and additional classrooms have been built in existing schools. The Government is currently providing housing grants and displaced people will soon move to better equipped sites. The Government has announced the construction of 5,000 houses in the Kintele district of Brazzaville to relocate the displaced people as soon as possible. In the meantime, UNFPA will continue to cater to the needs of girls, women and the vulnerable populations in Brazzaville.

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