[Editor’s note: Click here to jump straight to On the Ground’s donation page.]
Back-to-back heavy rains on May 2 and May 4 triggered flash flooding and landslides in eastern DR Congo, as well as in parts of Rwanda and western Uganda.
The villages of Bushushu and Nyamukubi, in Kalehe territory, South Kivu province, DR Congo, were hit particularly hard. According to the administrator of Kalehe, the official human toll in the region was over 400 dead, over 5,000 missing, and over 100,000 internally displaced people, as of May 9.
Compounding the catastrophe while making identification and recovery efforts more difficult was the fact that Bushushu’s market day, when the population typically doubles, was on May 4, during the worst of the flooding.
Several coffee cooperatives — including Muungano, SOPACDI, and Kalehe Arabica Coffee Cooperative (KACCO) — sit along the western shores of Lake Kivu and had members who were personally impacted.
The Congolese government and NGOs have sent emergency teams to assess the situation and begin providing emergency aid. The nonprofit On the Ground, whose mission is to build “sustainability in specialty coffee by improving farmers’ standard of living through community development initiatives,” is one group currently involved in relief efforts.
On The Ground has started a campaign to specifically address the immediate urgent needs of the impacted coffee cooperative members and communities, starting with the households who have been identified as most in need.
Atlas Coffee Importers, Cooperative Coffees, and Higher Grounds Coffee are all working directly with On the Ground to raise funds and awareness of this issue. You can donate here. According to the project organizers, a single $25 donation can cover the cost of food for a household for two weeks.
Herman Chirihambal Lwango, the DRC Country Director of On the Ground, just returned from an initial visit to Bushushu and Nyambuki where he met with the Kalehe territory administrator, visited hospitals and health centers, and spoke with victims’ families and cooperative managers.
“So many coffee farms have been destroyed,” he wrote. “People have lost everything, need everything.”
He also emphasized that, based on the trauma that survivors have endured, psycho-social services in the communities will be vital moving forward.
Due to the severity of the disaster, the full extent and longer-term impacts on communities, infrastructure, land and crops remains unclear — yet immediate assistance is needed now.
See On the Ground’s campaign page for more.
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Susan Heller Evenson
Susan Heller Evenson is a trader and position analyst at Atlas Coffee Importers. She is based in Seattle.