This year we funded SHUMAS to undertake its biggest humanitarian aid project so far. 506 households – a total of 3050 Internally Displaced People – had been identified as being in dire need of humanitarian assistance in the Fungom district of Menchum Division in the NW Region. These people had lost everything they owned and all their identity papers because their homes and farms had been destroyed by fire during the course of the fighting. They had fled to the forest regions for safety but were living under grass shelters, sleeping on tree fronds on the mud floors and scavenging for food and water. Every household had lost family members in the war, disease was rife, many of the women and girls had been sexually abused and were pregnant, children were running wild because all schools were closed and the communities were falling apart.
The project focussed on four main areas of assistance – Shelter, WASH (Water And Sanitation/Hygiene) Food Security and Health. Healthcare workers were trained and clinics set up in order to distribute the medicines provided for the under-fives to combat three killer diseases (Malaria, Diarrhoea and Pneumonia). Pregnant women were also given intermittent preventive treatment for malaria and were provided with delivery and new-born kits. Shelter kits, in the form of tarpaulins, mattresses and treated mosquito nets were provided to each household, as were WASH kits, including buckets, jerry cans, aqua tabs and training on water purification. To ensure food security, each household was given appropriate tools and seeds to establish small garden farms to grow food both to eat and to sell, and thus provide some income. In addition, training was given on the prevention of the spread of COVID and trained counsellors were employed to help all IDPs overcome the trauma they had undergone during the years of conflict. All these activities took place in 7 IDP community sites, located deep in the forest where other agencies had been unable to go. Fighting was still continuing and the heavy rains made access almost impossible.
Such desperate times call for desperate measures. SHUMAS rose to the occasion and delivered the whole project took six months. Lengthy negotiations had to be carried out with leaders from both sides of the conflict before it was agreed that the aid items could be brought in. Transportation for the items, over hundreds of kilometers, had to be found and this became more and more scarce, the deeper they moved into the conflict zone. Finally an army of volunteers was recruited from amongst the IDPs to carry everything by headload for the last 8 Kms of the journey.
During the delivery of this project, IDP community leaders begged SHUMAS to help with some form of schooling for the children – to give them some hope for the future. This became our next project.
We are just starting to receive information about the impact of the extended project on the beneficiaries, and we shall be publishing news of this in the coming months.