Tuesday, May 5, 2009
May 06, 2009 Lubumbashi- DRC
May 6, 2009
Tomorrow we leave the comforts of Lubumbashi and head back to the field; Moba. Saturday the first convoy of 2009 arrives at Moba Port where we will be waiting, camera in hand to greet them. Based on the article that IRIN published last week however, I have a premonition that the convoy will be delayed. As of now, only 129 refugees have signed up for this phase of voluntary repatriation. At the end of April there was a meeting between the government of DRC and Zambia, UNHCR as well as both IP and OP organizations. The outcome appears to be in favor of leaving the refugees no other option but to return to DRC. This constitutes a problem as many continue to fear insecurity and others are from areas of DRC where there is still unrest. Furthermore, according to the Tripartate Agreement, signed between Zambia and UN stipulates that repatriation is 'voluntary'. What I see happening is a slow but steady decline in food rations (they are now cut to half food rations in the camps), ceasing to pay the salaries of secondary school teachers and lack of new IGA's (Income Generating Activities) as well as closure of pre-existing workshops. This is another way to not 'force' the refugees out but rather- GIVE THEM NO OTHER OPTION. With regard to Refugees, they have 3 options or what is referred to in Intl Dvlp as the 3 RRR's: Repatriation (repatriating back to country of origin) Resettlement (resettling in a country outside of country of origin) or -Local- Reintegration (reintegrating into the country they sought refuge in, in this case that would be Zambia). What I find amazing is lack of access on the 3 RRR's, knowledge of rights on behalf of the refugees and overall misinterpreted information on the financial, cultural and emotional burden one may endure when resettling to another country. A country in which you are a foreigner, you do not speak the mother tongue, you will have to alter your behavioral, traditional and cultural ways and bare the financial burden of the cost of living, sometimes reaching 300% higher than what you are used to. It is mind boggling.
From our visit to Kala camp in April we asked many friends/refugees what it is they would like to see in this video- what kind of information will subdue their worries with regard to returning to the DRC. The major concerns expressed:
Education (many fear that they will not be able to afford the cost of sending their kids to school- then there are rumors that UNHCR 'promised' to support the cost of education for the first 3-6 months. This 'promise' apparently, has not been seen through and many are upset).
Health Care: there is great concern that once repatriated, returnees will have little to no access to health care not to mention afford it. Thus Marisa and I are doing many interviews with Doctors and patients, documenting the rehabilitation and building of new hospitals and health clinics. Furthermore, in the interviews we are addressing questions of cost, medical supply availability, statistics on malaria, cholera etc.
Job Opportunities: There is a lack of jobs ALL OVER THE WORLD. This is an issue with little to no solution at this very moment. Creating jobs is a process- a long one. From the rural town of Pepa to the big city of Lubumbashi, this is definitely a problem. We are trying to address this particular issue by empowering and inspiring the refugees to use the skills that they acquired in the camps to start a business; tailoring, market, agriculture, computer center etc. Of course 'starting a business' requires cash, credit, materials, customers and education, all of which is lacking. There are needs that take priority and gaps that need filling. As we document the positive aspects of development in Katanga province we too are making a needs assessment that will address the gaps for future collaboration, partnerships and implementation.
Ok, so after that long tirade, if you are interested in looking into any of these issues further, here are a couple suggestions on authors, books and links ;-)
"What is the What", Dave Eggers
"Dead Aid", Dambisa Moyo
"Confessions of an Economic Hit Man", John Perkins
"The End of Poverty", Jeffrey Sachs
Oh- have to go a meeting is starting!
bye for now- stay tuned