Congolese volunteers clean markets to improve public health
Bonn, Germany: In Goma, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 300 local volunteers are cleaning and refurbishing markets in Virunga and Kahembe, two densely populated districts affected by poor sanitary conditions.
A volcano eruption in January 2002, which covered two thirds of Goma with lava and made nearly 15,000 families homeless. After almost five years, displaced people continue to be homeless and are still living on temporary relocation sites. In the absence of adequate housing and without waste disposal and latrines, sanitary conditions are extremely poor. Rubbish and excrements attract parasites and spread microbes, which cause dangerous diseases. The situation is worst at the food markets, where disease vectors and pathogens proliferate and spread through the distribution of food . Over the past years, this has lead to many cases of dangerous diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid.
UNV and six local organizations responded by mobilizing 300 local volunteers to improve the cleanliness of the market area. The group, consisting of women, boy scouts and UNV volunteers, together collects waste, installs public latrines and dustbins, trains people on sanitary issues and raises awareness of the impact of volunteering. A monitoring committee has been set up to maintain sanitation.
Additionally, volunteers are helping to restore the nature by planting 1,000 trees on one of Goma’s lava fields.
The volunteer action will benefit more than 150,000 people living in Virunga and Kahembe districts.
“By making a difference in people’s life environment, we want to convey that poverty is not an excuse and should not prevent anybody from engaging in volunteer activities”, said Martial Mbilizi. The UNV volunteer who supports activities of the United Nations Office for Projects Services (UNOPS) in Goma is coordinating the volunteer activities in Goma.
The volunteers’ support was recognized and assisted by the municipality, which contributed funds and 14 waste containers and provided a waste deposit.
Goma’s mayor called upon community members to join him and the 300 volunteers in a march through the revamped areas on 5 December, International Volunteer Day. The event aims to recognize the voluntary contributions of local volunteers and to mobilize more volunteers from the community. After the march, the mayor will award official certificates to the participating volunteer organizations.