Goma, 25 November 2008 - Hundreds of thousands of people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo are on the move, fleeing conflict that has disrupted their lives for more than a decade. Many of those who have been forced to abandon their homes are hungry, sick or wounded. Others have been harassed or raped, as well as having their belongings stolen.
The conflict of the past 10 years involves an array of different armed groups and the Congolese army, fighting each other across the resource rich provinces of North and South Kivu. Life isn’t just hard in the Kivus, it’s approaching what some aid agencies call “condition critical”.
Balungu Adolfine, in her 60s, has been in the Mugunga 1 camp for more than a year.
“I returned to my home village of Remeyki, in the Masisi region just once in that time,” she says.
“But I didn’t feel safe. I am with my brother’s family here and with their help, I get by. My own family, of five sons, are all dispersed – I only get news of them occasionally.”
Mapendo Ngomayabami is 58. She has been living in a camp since last year with her seven children. She says her husband was killed when he refused to join one of the armed groups involved in the conflict. The chief in her village of Muheto, around 50 miles west of Goma, paid for her family to travel by bus to Mugunga.
She can only afford to send three of her children to school. “With God’s help we would like to go home,” she says. “I dream of cultivating my land and selling a few things, which is how we made ends meet before.”
Grateful for any assistance, she says it would be impossible to survive without WFP’s help.
Mazumbegabo is 48 and walked with his wife and their eight children the 50 km from his home village of Matanda, Masisi region last year.
Speaking French, he explains how his house was burned and his belongings destroyed in the fighting which engulfed his village more than a year ago.
“There was no option but to come close to Goma, where we thought we might be safe,” he says.
But life in the camp is hard, and although he is thankful to WFP, he longs to get back to growing the beans, maize and potatoes which his fertile land yields.