I’m exhausted. And not because of the rapidly approaching holidays. No, I’m exhausted because my schedule is packed with a seemingly endless stream of high-level meetings, panel discussions, roundtables, photo exhibitions, protests, marches, and congressional hearings – all of them focused on raising awareness of gender-based violence in emergencies.
There is always a convenient excuse. In Haiti, we don't have the time. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we don't have the funding. In the Syrian refugee response, we don't have the experts. Somehow, there is always a pat answer to why we, the humanitarian community, fail to protect women and girls in emergency after emergency.
After 20 months of shelling, occupation, and displacement, the M23 rebel group announced today that it is ending its insurgency in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations in Kampala between M23 and the Congolese government, where little progress was made towards agreeing on terms to end the conflict. Last week, after the talks broke down completely, the government recaptured the M23 stronghold town of Bunagana, and in the following days it steadily pushed M23 from each of its remaining centers of power.
On Friday morning, the sound of mortar shells could be heard from Mugunga III displaced camp in eastern Congo. For the 160,000 displaced persons living in the Mugunga camps, it carried with it a new threat that comes all too soon after last year’s siege of the nearby town of Goma.
This weekend, while many of us in the United States were outside enjoying the summer weather, 66,000 civilians fled across the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern border into Uganda. The exodus came after an attack by a Ugandan rebel group known as the Allied Democratic Forces - National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU), who on Thursday briefly took control of the Congolese town of Kamango.
A few minutes ago, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the creation of an “intervention brigade” within the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
The resolution passed despite a good deal of skepticism on the part of many Council members, and it’s unclear whether the Council is prepared for the potential humanitarian fallout.
If you live in a Western country, you might find it a bit strange – even anachronistic – to devote an entire day to honoring women. Many of my friends here in Washington, DC, feel that all the major battles facing women have already been won.
Life in a displaced persons camp is not easy. Even for the strongest of the strong, surviving in an insecure and inhospitable camp is both physically and emotionally grueling. But for the elderly, disabled, or ill, the demands of camp life can seem insurmountable.
These individuals – especially those without family members to support them – are often the most vulnerable, and their needs are often overlooked.