200,000 displaced in CongoBy Tim Lind Mennonite Central Committee
GOMA, Congo — Rukimba Furaha fled her home and fields in the village of Kabuya out of fear for the safety of her eight children.
Her husband had left home several days earlier to avoid being forced into the rebel army. Due to the haste of their flight, they couldn’t bring any food or other possessions.
They fled as an outbreak of armed conflict and population displacement once again brings widespread suffering to the eastern provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since April, more than 200,000 people have fled their villages and fields, bringing the number of internally displaced people to more than 2 million.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 have become refugees in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
But the vast majority, including Furaha’s family, joined other people either in overcrowded camps in North or South Kivu, or with nearby host families. Many are hesitant to go far from their home villages, because harvest time is approaching and they fear their crops will be lost.
Furaha’s eldest child, Mbatse Dorika, is only 10 years old. Together with her younger siblings she walked more than 37 miles from Kabuya to Kibati, near the provincial capital of Goma, where the family found refuge in a local primary school.
The school has no water, sanitary facilities are severely overtaxed and, as of mid-July, no emergency assistance had arrived. Seven or eight families sleep in each small classroom of the school, with only rearranged student desks providing privacy between them.
On July 15, Mennonite Central Committee staff and emergency services staff of the Church of Christ of Congo, an MCC partner for more than 15 years, visited Kibati. In addition to Furaha’s family, several hundred others — many of them small children — had arrived the week before after walking for three days from their villages in the middle of the current conflict.
“I was deeply affected by the lack of resources to meet basic human needs, such as food and water,” Ruth Keidel Clemens, program director for MCC U.S., reported after the visit. “Many of the children appeared to have medical needs with no means to address them. We observed traumatized and exhausted families. These are some of the visible signs of a forgotten war that continues to uproot and kill thousands of people in eastern Congo.”
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