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Bridging the gap in DR Congo

Getting around in the jungle of the Democratic Republic of Congo isn’t simple, and often isn’t safe. But a Christian aid agency is looking to change things …

“I don’t like these bridges, but there’s no other way for us to go between villages,” says Busanga. “The bridges are never safe. I’m even more scared when my children cross. I know if they fall, that’s it. They’ll be taken away in the river and I won’t see them again.”

Busanga lives deep in the jungle of North Kivu province in DR Congo. Out here, there’s nothing with which to build bridges except for bamboo, jungle vines, and bits of string or wire.

The resulting bridges are precarious at best and dangerous at worst. They cannot hold much weight, and are prone to breaking apart or washing away in heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, they’re the only way to get across the wide and winding rivers that criss-cross the jungle.

For a woman like Busanga, it’s hard enough to cross these bridges while carrying a load of firewood. Imagine trying to cross in the early stages of labour, or the difficulties people face while carrying a critically ill patient across. And yet that’s exactly what the community here must do to get their family to the hospital.

It’s an impossible situation, but one that Medair is working hard to resolve. Working with labourers from the local community, we’re replacing five bamboo bridges with durable suspension bridges made of cement and metal that will be able to bear weight and withstand adverse weather.

These areas are so remote that all of the building materials — suspension cables, cement, and building tools — have to be carried here on foot.

Getting the new bridges into place will complete a massive two-year effort between Medair and the local community to connect their villages to the nearest town. It will be the first time that many of these communities have ever been accessible by road.

“With a bridge made of cement and metal, we will be able to take our patients and pregnant women to hospital,” says Paluku, a foreman at one of the bridge sites.

He stops and surveys the bridge construction site. “Since Medair started working here, the access to these villages has been much better. We’ve never seen work like this before.”

Medair are working to relieve human suffering in DR Congo and in some of the world’s most devastated areas. You can give now at medair.org/easter

Photos (Lucy Bamforth, Medair):
Main photo: Busanga-crossing-the-bridge-at-Kahande
Above: Transporting cables to Kahande

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