Congo Humanitarian Response"An earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale" would be your first impression on visiting the suburb in Brazzaville where an accidental explosion of an ammunitions depot destroyed every single structure in its surrounds. There is nothing to be salvaged simply because there is just nothing. The ferocity and intensity of the explosion could be heard across the mighty Congo River in the DRC which also experienced damage. Doors of the home of the SA Ambassador to the Republic of Congo were blown away, houses of two SA Embassy staff were demolished and so to was the house of a South African lady from Cape Town, who is married to a Congolese and now lives in Congo. Her husband has requested Gift of the Givers to allow his wife and two children to return with our teams to South Africa whilst he rebuilds his life over the next six months as he cannot sustain the hotel costs. He does not want to subject his family to the "pain" of a refugee camp. We acceded to his request. She will return with our teams tomorrow.
The loss of at least 300 lives, the emotional and psychological trauma compounded by the memory of gunfire and explosions from a civil war in the recent past, the horrendous injuries, unclassifiable in any textbook on medical science, injuries to more than 2000 individuals, homelessness, hunger, thirst in scorching heat, the indignity of public exposure of genitals, in the absence of ablution blocks, in overcrowded camps "accommodating" 12000 people is the painful plight of poor, desperate people. The Congolese Government and the large number of civilian volunteers including taxi drivers, family and friends who rushed to the rescue were outstanding, loading bodies, the injured and the traumatised into any space in any vehicle, as they ferried them to overstretched hospitals where under resourced medical staff tried their best. They stood out tall and proudly African in their compassionate service.
At the request of the Congolese Government Gift of Givers deployed a search and rescue team, (being the only team in the world to respond), with four sniffer dogs at the bomb site, and deploying specialist medical teams at two hospitals, including the military hospital, where our teams are desperately busy with many live saving procedures. Teams were also deployed in the largest refugee camp where Congolese staff gave total co-operation and backup support. The Congolese Government, the South African Embassy, the Niall Mellon Trust and indeed ordinary Congolese were outstanding in every facet of support as we deployed our teams and distribute R8 million supplies in the form of tents, food, high energy and protein supplements, clothing, blankets and hygiene packs. The President of Congo, Dennis Sasso Nguesso, has offered two Iluyshins, at his cost, to Gift of the Givers to deliver another 70 tons of supplies from South Africa. We are weighing the options as we re-emphasise that African governments, corporates and civilians should be the first to passionately respond to the cry of fellow African in a continent where many out of the one billion inhabitants live in anguish.