Congo: Conflict leaves thousands homeless

On-going violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo leaves thousands homeless. ©2012 John Kisimir/World Vision

From World Vision, by John Kisimir:

Nyaranzo is one young girl among thousands who are homeless because of conflict in the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The 8-year-old looks up to the sky at the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Nyaranzo has no family where she is staying; they may have been lost as they ran for their lives.

“I just remember people running,” she says of the conflict that drove her family from their home. “Maybe my mum is still coming.”

A good Samaritan — a woman with four other children — watches over Nyaranzo. Along with 900 other families, they stay at a school in Kiwanja. A dusty classroom is Nyaranzo’s home at night; she stays at the playground during the day.

As the government and rebels fight along the Runyonyi Mountains, families are finding it difficult and dangerous to move about. The displacement is putting pressure on food reserves of the host communities; they could run out of food for themselves as well.

“We are very concerned about the population in areas where the fighting is going on,” says Jonas Habimana, World Vision’s program coordinator. “We are worried about their safety and lack of basic needs, like food.”

Since April 2012, clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group have driven more than 200,000 people from their homes, according to the U.N. human rights organization.

“The leaders of the M23 figure among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the [Congo], or in the world for that matter,” said Navi Pillay U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “Many of them have appalling track records, including allegations of involvement in mass rape and of responsibility for massacres and for the recruitment and use of children.”

World Vision partners with the World Food Program to provide food rations to the displaced by the conflict.

In partnership with the humanitarian community, the organization is advocating for the protection of civilians by the U.N. Stabilization Force, the government, and parties to the conflict, as well as establishing a protection response including Child-Friendly Spaces to assist the displaced.

John Kisimir is a World Vision communications director based in South Africa. He is currently on assignment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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