Samaritans Purse are assisting Congolese caught up in ethnic violence that has spiralled this year into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with 4.5 milllion people internally displaced and over 650,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries.
Visiting from the charity’s headquarters in North Carolina, Mr Houghton, discussed his visit with MAF pilot Eivind Lindtjoern:
‘The most recent crisis breaking out in EDRC has pushed a lot of IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) into Bunia from both tribes. I was just visited the hospital here three days ago and they have registered more than 35,000 people. The refugees are living in very difficult situations.
'Samaritan’s Purse goes to places where others don’t like to go. Quite often they’re only reachable by air and MAF is there to take us.' Francis Houghton, Samaritan's Purse Regional Director for West Africa
‘We visited another site yesterday on the other side of the mountain. They have been absorbed by the community into a camp there but again are living in very desperate conditions. We’ve started an initiative to provide emergency shelter (tarpaulins) and food for both tribes in different locations.
‘We are helping to coordinate assistance; as you can imagine in a situation like this coordination can be the first victim. We’re assessing where organisations are not going so that we can fill in some of those gaps and go where the need is greatest.’
Mr Houghton is a frequent flier with MAF and appreciates being able to fly on the regular shuttle. ‘Every time I come here, which is at least 4 times a year, I fly with MAF. Samaritan’s Purse goes to places where others don’t like to go. We try to access the areas that are difficult to reach. Quite often they’re only reachable by air and MAF is there to take us. It’s because of that transport and service that beneficiaries are getting what they need”
Mr Houghton shared that a key motivation for him is seeing people receiving help in the name of Jesus; a core value and motivation for Billy Graham’s own outreaches. “Yesterday I saw a woman who has 12 children and her husband is lame. She said to me “I’m just tired.” To see someone like that get help and to take some of that load off and have an opportunity to tell her about Christ is so worth it.”