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Visit to Bulengo IDP Camps: Addressing the Plight of Twa/Pygmies

Action alertsVisit to Bulengo IDP Camps: Addressing the Plight of Twa/Pygmies

On Sunday, April 21, 2024, our team visited two groups at the Bulengo IDP camps near Goma, North Kivu, including the Catholic Community. On our way back, we passed through the area known locally as “ku bambuti,” which translates to “the area for Pygmies.” This visit aimed to understand the conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these camps and others around Goma.

As we explored, it became evident that the naming of specific areas after the people residing there could potentially stigmatize and increase discrimination against them. The Twa/Pygmies are located deep within the camp, at a point that is challenging to reach after an exhaustive tour of the camp. This isolation not only makes them less accessible to visitors but also emphasizes their marginalization—they are the minority and most marginalized among the IDPs.

Conditions in the Twa/Pygmy Area

The living conditions of the Twa/Pygmies in the camp are dire:

  • There are no basic amenities such as roads, schools, churches, markets, or healthcare facilities.
  • The housing consists of plastic tents, which are of noticeably poorer quality than those in other parts of the camp.
  • The community is isolated, with no religious leaders or social structures focusing on their needs, and they lack access to communal facilities like football pitches.

During our visit, we spoke with the Twa/Pygmy Community Leader and members of the COJESKI Team. The Twa/Pygmies appear extremely vulnerable, facing severe health issues, including malnutrition and diseases such as Kwashiorkor, primarily among children and women. Observations revealed that the community members, including children and women, are often naked and visibly unclean, suggesting a lack of water and sanitation facilities.

Discrimination and Marginalization

One elder explained, “When we arrived, our distinct lifestyles and behaviors led to tensions with other ethnic groups. To manage our community effectively and avoid conflicts, we asked the camp chairperson for a separate area. Since then, incidents with other groups have decreased.”

Despite being among many ethnic groups, the Twa/Pygmies feel they are the most vulnerable and marginalized. A community member shared their frustration over the lack of registration and recognition, which has led to them being overlooked in aid distributions and job allocations within the camp. They also experience discrimination in the local market and job searches in town.

Recommendations from COJESKI North Kivu

  • To Humanitarian Agencies: Prioritize urgent relief aid and specific interventions for Twa/Pygmies, focusing on equity, health education, and improved living conditions.
  • To Congolese Authorities: Consider consolidating Twa/Pygmies in camps like Rusayu with better infrastructure and livelihood opportunities and include them in camp leadership roles to better advocate for their needs.

Conclusion

The plight of the Twa/Pygmies in Bulengo IDP Camp requires immediate attention and action. Our observations and conversations underline the need for targeted interventions to address the inequities faced by this community, ensuring their voices are heard and their conditions improved.

Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos, Provincial Coordinator,

COJESKI North Kivu, DRC

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