Ned Meerdink (DR Congo)

Ned Meerdink (Sos Femmes en Danger – SOSFED): Ned earned his Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied humanitarian work in Central and Eastern Africa. After graduation, NED worked for human rights NGOs in the US and Congo. They included Mutuelle Jeunesse Active (MJA) in Sud Kivu. AP deployed Ned to Uvira, in South Kivu, in September 2008 to work with civil society organizations including Tunza Mazingira, Arche d’Alliance, and SOS Femmes en Danger. Ned launched the partnership between SOSFED and AP in 2009.

School is around the corner, but where are the uniforms?

02 Sep

One of the more frustrating aspects of working in the regions of Congo currently under the yoke of Kimya II operations is the stopping of programs already in place due to declining security and risky travel situations. Admittedly, this is a paltry inconvenience when compared with the problems facing civilians all too often directly in the line of fire; their worries are much more significant than those NGOs face. Entire rural villages are being burned up by rebels it daily recently in South Kivu. However, when speaking of the declining quality of life and availability of services that face Congolese during active combat and operations, the blocking of NGO work definitely comes into play. Examples…

One of the AP partners in eastern Congo with whom I have been working, SOS Femmes en Danger, recently appealed to the foundation run by Diane Von Furstenburg for financing to get uniforms and supplies to children of rape victims and single mothers (many mothers themselves are still young enough to be students) in Fizi Territorry villages currently more or less run by FDLR and Mai-Mai militias. Ms. Von Furstenburg was more than generous with us, and the huge hurdle that gaining even minimal amounts of financing usually is for organizations in eastern Congo was made remarkably simple. With the money in place, we got to work putting together hundreds of uniforms and supply sets for kids who pretty much wouldn’t be able to even find their obligatory uniforms due to the cutting of supply routes in their area. This all seems to be adding up to what could be called a ‘successful intervention’ by many, n’est-pas?

Here’s the gritty part: The Kimya II operations in our area have more or less closed the roads due South. Roads that are still passable are manned by a variety of militia soldiers, obviously generally unconcerned with letting free school uniforms get through to more isolated communities. On the contrary, OCHA offices have informed me that not only will the Mai-Mai in question likely interrogate and extort us along the road, but they will likely take whatever is being carried towards Fizi and simply refuse the parcels back after ‘inspection.’ I’ve got no problem riding on a motorbike with heavy boxes for 14 hours, but not just to get robbed along the way. So, we look into taking a boat on Lake Tanganyika around the heavy combat zones, and we’re told that will cost for the moment is about $600 due to the regional insecurity and soaring gas prices (those lines have been cut off or at least limited as well). No chance…

So, as the deadline for the beginning of the school year creeps closer, this prime example of frustrations encountered by NGOs with limited financing is rearing its ugly head. Waiting and wringing our hands is an option, but can only go so far. Hopefully, we’ll be able to convince the UN helicopters moving everywhere these days to organize a good old fashioned air drop, but that seems more than a little far-fetched. Welcome to eastern Congo during the epoch of Kimya II.

Ned Meerdink

Posted By Ned Meerdink (DR Congo)

Posted Sep 2nd, 2009


  • ann

    September 8, 2009


    please keep on top of this story and let your readers know if a way has been found to get the needed supplies to the children. thanks.

    • Ned Meerdink

      September 9, 2009


      Will do. As of now, everything just keeps getting more hectic down there. Constant fighting and movement of soldiers for the past week. Still waiting to see if this boat idea can work out once the firing has died down. Thanks for reading!

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