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‘The horror is destroying me slowly’: Learning from DRC floods to prevent future tragedies

RD del Congo
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By Mirabelle Enaka Kima and Osman Mohamed Osman, IFRC

Elysee Bapu melts into her faded brown sofa – her hands shake as tears fall from her tired eyes as she narrates the saddest story of her life.

It was a rainy January evening in Bandal neighbourhood and Bapu left her children, with her 16-year-old daughter in charge, to attend a church service.

That would be the last time she would see her five children who were among the 51 lives claimed by heavy floods in Bandal, a poor neighbourhood in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) capital, Kinshasa.

“I could not believe my eyes when I saw my children lying lifeless on the ground,” she says, two months after the harrowing incident. “Their bodies were covered with mud. It was a nightmare. The horror is here, haunting me and destroying me slowly.”

Red Cross volunteers respond to the call

After receiving a call for assistance from Bapu’s neighbours on the day that preceded the heavy rain, Bonny, an official from the DRC Red Cross disaster unit, sent a team of volunteers to her home. They could only access the house through the roof as the main door was blocked by water and mud.

“Unfortunately, when we got in, the five children were already dead and the eldest child was struggling to breathe. She received first aid assistance from the team and was rushed to the hospital for proper medical attention,” explains Bonny.

Thousands of people live in slums like Bandal, classified as high flood risk zones. For most of them, residing in places closer to job opportunities is better than the dangers they hold.

“Today I am paying the highest price. I wish I could have saved my children,” mourns Bapu.

Better prepared communities can save countless lives

“Tragedies like this can be avoided if communities are better prepared and more resilient – this is what will save countless lives,” says Khaled Masud, regional disaster management delegate with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

IFRC is working with the DRC Red Cross to ensure governments, partners and communities are equipped with the knowledge and resources to respond to future flooding. This includes establishing early warning systems, prepositioning supplies and educating communities.

Through IFRC emergency funds, DRC Red Cross continues to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to more than 5,000 people impacted by the flooding in January 2018.