Beni region under attack, thousands of families displaced
Assignment for Oxfam Novib
In and around the city of Beni, located in North-Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in recent years hundreds of civilians have been killed in a series of massacres. Many others have been kidnapped and thousands of families are being displaced. The region that is under siege from the Allied Defence Forces (ADF), an Ugandan rebel group that has operated in the area since 1995.
Patience and her seven children are one of those thousands families who fled their home leaving everything behind. in October 2014 the ADF attacked and massacred her village, including her husband.
Patience found shelter with a host family in another village. A family of eight who live in poverty themselves but nonetheless share their small house and their morsel of food with Patience and her children. "We didn’t know her, but we welcomed her and her children anyway," say Paluku Mantha and Katsuva Mandevu. "But there is not enough room for all of us. We all have to sleep on the floor and do our best to bring enough food on the table."
In January 2015, Oxfam Novib, together with local partner organisation MAAMS, provided emergency relief to 2,250 displaced families in the area. They provided basic necessities for the families to survive including blankets, mattresses, clothing and food.
But then in May 2015 disaster struck again. The village where the families had sought refuge was attacked and looted. Once again they had to flee and leave everything behind. It forced them to sleep on the streets and in churches. Despite their fears they return only to see their houses were looted and their humble belongings stolen.
Life in the Beni region is extremely difficult. The people suffer on a daily basis. When asked about her future, Patience looks defeated: "The future? I have no future. We are suffering here. I cannot go back to my village, it's too dangerous. My husband is dead, and I have to take care of our seven children by myself. What can I do? What should I do?"
For Patience and many other displaced families life is a daily struggle to survive. When there is no food, they drink hot water to not have to go to bed on an empty stomach.
The immediate needs of the displaced and host families mainly consider housing, food, medicines and access to education for the children. But what they really need is peace. Peace to return to their villages. Peace to be able to continue their farming livelihoods.