Interview with Marian in D.R. Congo

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Marian Wetshay-van der Snoek, Country Director for Medair-Congo, based in Goma. I’ve been working with people of Congo since 1992 and with Medair since 1998 – so this message is coming from the heart!

Can you explain the current situation in Congo? How is Medair responding and what are the main sectors involved in this response?

Congo is experiencing one of the most neglected crises of our time. The situation is Congo has been one of conflict for decades now, so people think things are at a status-quo, but since November ’22 and then again since February ’23, there has been fighting on such a significant scale that we’re now close to 1 million newly displaced people (IDPs) in the province of North Kivu, where Medair works from the bases in Goma and in Butembo. This has also impacted the province of Ituri, where Medair works from Bunia, and where the number of new IDPs is constantly growing.

Adding to the chaos, since December we’ve been facing a cholera epidemic in the IDP camps in North Kivu, as well as a measles epidemic since January.

If this would be happening in any other country, it would be world news…

Presidential elections are planned for this December, and if history’s taught us anything, it’s that election years are anything but peaceful. It’s therefore very likely that the situation will continue to deteriorate, with an increasing number of people needing our help.

So, what are we doing to help?

Medair is intervening in a growing number of health facilities to offer free health care and care for malnourished children. We’re also doing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in every one of these health facilities, as well as a WASH and Community Engagement program for cholera prevention in the IDP camps.

Our Emergency Response Teams have scaled up their activities since December – and while we can continue to grow in the short term, we need more help if we’re going to sustain this in the long term. In short, we need YOU.

We’re lucky to have a lot of financial flexibility as donors appreciate what we’re doing right now, but we realize that we can’t do it without our most precious commodity: people who are able to help on all levels. This includes both technical support in the field as well as people campaigning for donations and assistance to help provide the medicines and WASH construction materials for our teams.

What are the biggest challenges that you and the team have faced or are still facing?

We’ve got a fantastic team that has ramped up our efforts well above my expectations. But we now see the limits, with people struggling to take leave. We’ve started recruitment locally, but we also need more people with experience and who can help maintain the level of activity to support those in the greatest need.

How can the Medair Family support you?

We really feel that the Lord is guiding us. In several instances we pulled out just in time, but in even more instances, we decided to start somewhere and a few weeks later it turned out to be a place of refuge for many. The Lord is really guiding us. Please pray for our awareness of His direction in each of the decisions we make, and His protection over each member of our staff who is in areas close to moving front lines.
Going: as explained above, we really need more people to help us keep it up.

Given the needs and challenges described, what type of profile would best fit the team, and what skills could be an asset to Medair and the people we help?

We’re actively looking for Project and Program Support Managers, an HR Manager, a Project Funding Manager, WASH managers and Health Managers.
It would be wonderful to have people who speak French, but in the short term, we can also manage with people who speak English, as quite a bit of our local staff speaks (at least some) English and virtual translation programs are becoming increasingly accurate and useful.

What do you enjoy the most about working for Medair and the DR Congo team?

We have a very dynamic team with an interesting mix of national and international staff – 220 and 15 employees respectively. It’s heartwarming to see how motivated everyone is to help and step up to meet the increased demands, especially across different departments like finance, logistics, and HR. They know their work directly affects what the field teams can do, and that’s so inspirational!