Crisis in DRC: In South Masisi, People Speak of Hunger and Despair


On December 15, a CARE team returned from an evaluation mission to South Masisi territory in the North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ’” the first one to take place in the region by any humanitarian organization.

Starting in mid-November, the rural areas surrounding Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, had been inaccessible due to increased fighting. A CARE team of three visited several villages in south Masisi in a convoy organized by the World Food Programme as soon as the security situation allowed.

In the villages they visited, CARE found large numbers of new arrivals ’” internally displaced people who've recently fled fighting near their homes. CARE already had programs in the area; organizing food distributions through a cash and voucher system at the local market, providing plastic sheets to cover huts against rain and supporting local health centers with medicine and advice.

When fighting intensified, CARE and other humanitarian organizations had to temporarily withdraw from the region. The CARE Masisi team continued to work around the clock from Goma to ensure an immediate intervention could be launched once the humanitarian corridor to South Masisi was reopened.

CARE's three field staff came back a week after they had left for South Masisi with many observations and analyses of the current needs of the displaced populations, and recommendations for interventions CARE could undertake given the conditions on the ground.

"Most of the displaced persons have been here for five months," reported Emmanuel, one of the CARE staff who visited South Masisi. "They were working in their fields when they heard the fighting in the villages. They fled immediately without having the chance to go back home to take some belongings such as plates or pots."

"They arrived there without anything," he explains. "They sleep on the ground. You know, it's very cold in Masisi and without any household goods it's difficult to prepare to eat. They also don't have easy access to water."

Emmanuel recorded the stories of some of the people he met

Crisis in DRC: In South Masisi, People Speak of Hunger and Despair image 1Munyarubuga, 62, father of four

"I am a farmer. Thanks to this work, I feed and take care of my family. Due to the insecurity at home, I am blocked here, and I have no way of providing for my family. My family does not even have the most basic items to survive because we fled the hostilities when we were working in the field. We left everything behind. Our little hut here is not big enough for the family and back home our house has been burnt down by armed groups. Upon our return back home, I will have to start from the beginning, buy everything again. That's really terrible."

Crisis in DRC: In South Masisi, People Speak of Hunger and Despair image 2Uwizeye Therese, 35, mother of five
"When I was working in the field with my husband and my children, we saw smoke above our village; armed groups had put our village on fire. We took our children immediately and left with other people of the village. Where we are now, we suffer. Look at our hut …

It's difficult to find enough to eat, and we have no plates or pots to cook, eat or collect water with. I only have the clothes I am wearing, and to wash my family' clothes in the river takes me a whole day. When it rains, they don't dry and we have to borrow clothes from neighbors."

Crisis in DRC: In South Masisi, People Speak of Hunger and Despair image 3Madame Nyirabazairwa, 30, mother of two
"Since I've arrived here, I have only received a plastic sheet. Access to resources and services is difficult, and there is not enough space in the camp. I work on a daily basis on other people's land, which is not always assured. Look, my child who sits next to me is starting to get sick because of malnutrition. We really suffer a lot."

Crisis in DRC: In South Masisi, People Speak of Hunger and Despair image 4Madame Agishanimana, 28, mother of one
"I have been here for around five months. Life here is difficult. Look at my hut, that's all I have. I only have one set of clothes. Finding food is difficult. We hope that when CARE comes here next time, we will receive food. The number of displaced people has increased lately, which limits the chance of getting day work in local fields on which we depend. Everything I use in the hut has been offered by a local family. If I receive a means to prepare to eat, and a blanket to cover my children, that would help a lot. You see, my child who is asleep in the hut suffers from coughing and fever, maybe as a result of the cold and the bad living conditions. There needs to be peace for us to be able to return home and to end this misery we live in."

CARE Distributions

A few days after the assessment, CARE, in partnership with the World Food Programme and the Government of Luxemburg, distributed food and shelter items to more than 8,000 displaced families.