Over 7,000 refugees from the Democratic of Congo (DRC) have seen their living conditions improve after staying in the Nkamira transit centre for the last two years. In April, they moved to Mugombwa camp in Southern Rwanda and although they remain dependent on WFP food assistance their life has got better.
MUGOMBWA, Rwanda: Perus Nyirakavange, 60, is a mother of three who fled DRC after witnessing her relatives being killed.“We spent a whole night walking in the bush coming to the border. My children were hungry and crying every time. I was thinking that although we escaped the bullets we had not escaped hunger."
“But the following day we crossed the border and entered Rwanda, where WFP gave us food, including High energy biscuits and water. I don’t have appropriate words to express my thanks to WFP for their support since I arrived in Rwanda. Only God knows their gratitude.” she added
After one year in Nkamira transit centre, Perus and her family have recently moved to Mugombwa refugee camp. Like many parents in the camp, Perus says that she no longer worries about food for her children as she benefits from the monthly WFP food distribution which includes cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and salt.
To counter increasing malnutrition rates, WFP is also providing specialised foods both to treat and prevent undernutrition among women and young children. Supplementary food is provided to children under two years of age, as well as to pregnant and breastfeeding women to protect them from any deterioration in their nutritional status. Evidence has shown that chronic undernutrition during the first 1,000 days of life leads to irreversible damage later in life. Specialised nutritional products including sugar, fortified blended foods and oil are given to young children between two and five years of age with moderate acute malnutrition as well as those people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy.
In the next few weeks construction of kitchens will be complete at primary schools within the refugee camps, enabling WFP to provide mid-morning porridge to children attending school. The meal provides a powerful incentive for children to attend school, raising overall enrollment rates. And with full bellies, these young students can better concentrate on their studies.
Rwanda is a home to 73,000 refugees, mainly from eastern DRC. For many there is little immediate hope of returning home since eastern DRC is still characterised by continued insecurity. Eliezer Musoni, 72, fled from Rutshuru in eastern DRC two years ago. He was an ordinary farmer who lost his land and home when the armed conflict resumed in early 2012. He smiles as he talks about the new home he shares with his five children and three grandchildren.
“When I was told about WFP food assistance for our stay in exile in Rwanda, I felt as if someone had taken the heavy luggage off my back as I struggle to climb a high mountain. My family is happy and we are ready to start a new life in the new camp here. Nkamira was too congested and we had no breathing space which could result in diseases, I had lost hope but now I’m quite relieved.”
Over the last year 2013, WFP has provided over 17,000 metric tons of food commodities to over 178,000 vulnerable people. These include refugee camp residents who received full monthly food ration, school children from more food insecure areas and Rwandans voluntarily repatriated from neighboring countries who receive a three month food basket to help them reintegrate into the society. WFP is continuously looking at ways to improve assistance particularly through innovations.
John Paul Sesonga is from Rwanda. He has a law degree and a diploma in journalism from the Uganda Management Institute. He wrote various articles on economic and legal issues for Rwandan media outlets before joining WFP.