(Photos by Gerry Kahashy, ECI)
In the Lake Kivu/Virunga National Park region of eastern Congo, landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) are a constant danger to coffee workers and their families. Indiscriminate as to their victims, mines and ERW have killed thousands of Congolese civilians. Children, especially, have been affected, accounting for more than three-quarters of victims in recent years.
Beyond the tragic loss of life and limb, landmines undermine economic development. Often disabled, survivors are unable to return to work, especially in the labor-intensive coffee sector around Lake Kivu. Landmines also prevent farmers from utilizing arable land, accessing water, and transporting produce to markets.
Although significant progress has been made in reducing the number of landmines, a lack of donor funding, combined with the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo, have afforded little attention to the survivors of landmines and ERW.
Eastern Congo Initiative – along with our partners – is stepping in to help correct this problem. Beginning in January 2018, ECI will assist landmine and ERW survivors near Virunga National Park through a four-prong approach that incorporates rehabilitation, vocational training, education, and organizational capacity building.
Funded by the US State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and in partnership with the Polus Center and Higher Grounds Trading, participants in the project will be fitted for prosthetic devices and provided with physical rehabilitation to improve mobility. Psychosocial rehabilitation, also occurring in this first stage, will allow participants to better engage in other aspects of the project.
The project will conclude by providing participants with improved vocational opportunities throughout the coffee industry value chain. By improving landmine survivors’ skills and filling the existing deficit in infrastructure, ECI and its partners will provide competitive employment, increase incomes, and empower landmine survivors.
Stand with the survivors of landmines and ERW – Click here to support the project!