Food Rations Ease Congolese Family's Homecoming

The Shamamba family is happy to be going back but unsure of what it will find.

(Copyright: WFP/Jim Farrell)

After months in a camp for displaced people, the Shamamba family is returning to the home that it was forced to abandon amid last autumn's upsurge in fighting. WFP food kept the family going in the camp and will help now that it's going home.

KIBATI CAMP (Eastern Congo) -- A three-month-old baby boy squirms as his grinning parents hoist him into the back of an old Japanese truck and prepare to go home to a village he’s never seen.

Samson Shamamba, wife Kavira and their three other children fled Kiwanja last November as government troops and a rebel militia battled nearby. Several of their neighbours had been killed.

The Shamamba family are now part of a stream of people who are taking advantage of an outbreak of peace in the area and offers of food, seeds and household implements to rebuild their lives.

For the past four months, they have lived in a thatched hut in Kibati camp. Each month they received an allotment of food from World Food Programme. Once they get to Kiwanja, they expect to receive more to keep them alive until their first crop comes in.

“We don’t even know if we have a home any more,” Samson says as he sits among lumpy bags of food and household articles. A home-made wooden bicycle is lashed to the back of the truck.

It will take slightly more than three hours to return to Kiwanja. The Shamambas will be one of 80 families that make the trip today on board trucks chartered by the provincial government.

“We have had 970 families leave Kibati in the last week,” camp president Gilbert Kdimurwango said through an interpreter. “Some have been here four months, others a year and a half.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet with a delegation of the IDPs still in the camp during his upcoming Sunday visit. 

On that day, eight kilometres south in the city of Goma, WFP will begin distributing food to Rwandan civilians who are accepting voluntary repatriation to their native land following pacification efforts by a joint Rwandan-DRC military force in the Masisi area, west of Goma.