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DRC portraits: faces of the displaced

Large group of people forming a line outdoors in front of a white tent.

Internally Displaced People line up for food distribution at a camp in Mudja,
 Goma, DRC.
 All photos: Kelvin Batumike/CARE

Internally Displaced People line up for food distribution at a camp in Mudja,
 Goma, DRC.
 All photos: Kelvin Batumike/CARE

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the grips of a worsening humanitarian disaster.

Ongoing conflict has displaced over 6.1 million people, making it the country with the highest number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Africa. At the same time, more than 26 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Years of conflict, breakdown in the provision of essential services, and epidemics have placed the country at the top of the list of the world’s most food-insecure countries. The number of people in need has steadily been rising over the last two years due to an upsurge in armed struggles. Villages and farmlands have been ravaged and destroyed as more than 120 militia groups fight against the government.

As a result, many people, like the four featured below, have fled and settled in makeshift camps across the country. The camps are mostly composed of women and children since the chaos of sudden displacement forced many families to separate. A CARE analysis found that 60 percent of the IDPs are women.

Here are some of their stories:

Photo of a woman casting her eyes downward, next to a a child doing the same.
Alliance Sarah Bukeni in Mudja IDP Camp.

Alliance Sarah Bukeni: ‘I find myself in a very precarious situation’

I’m 22 years old, and I find myself here alone, without my husband or family members. Just me and my five children. Right now, I’m sick, and my older children are out in the fields looking for wood to sell. The younger ones are playing in the yard with other children and going to eat at the neighbors’, as I’m hospitalized and only allowed out to collect food before returning when finished.

At home, before the conflict reached us, I used to farm like everyone else in our village. but I ended up here in Mudja in February 2023 after being separated from my family. I found my children in the hands of my neighbor.

So far, I have no information about my husband or other family members, because I don’t know where to look for them.

If someone could help me find them, it would be a great joy for me, because the life I live with my children is not good.

Our tarpaulins are damaged by the rain and the sun and since we live close to the camp’s toilets, the smells often reach us, exposing us to all sorts of illnesses. We get sick every day, which is why I allow my children to play away from home.

My life here in the camp is not favorable, as we encounter several problems, including illness, lack of food, and other problems of daily life. We try to live but with no hope of returning home to our village concerns. We often feel like doing something in society and being useful, but we don’t know where to start.  

As for my vulnerability, being ill and separated from my family, I find myself in a very precarious situation, with responsibility for my five children. I do my best to provide for them despite the daily difficulties we face. Additional help in accessing adequate medical care and more stable living conditions would be a great help in improving our situation and enabling us to build a better future.

Photo of a woman looking left and smiling, man in background also smiling.
Furaha Gentille Sifa.

Furaha Gentille Sifa: ‘Thank God we were together that day’

I’m 35 years old and because of the problems in our country, I had to flee the conflict that was raging in our village. At present, I live with my husband, my mother-in-law, and our four children.

We’re all here without permanent jobs, except for my husband who is always looking for work on construction sites to provide us with enough to eat. As for me, I’m looking for opportunities to help someone in their fields in exchange for a little money, to provide for our family, in addition to the meager resources my husband brings home.

When the conflict broke out, we were all in the fields in Binza. Thank God we were together that day. Otherwise, we could have lost each other, my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. After this tragic event, we left our house in a hurry, without being able to recover our belongings, our clothes, or our goats, and we ended up here in Mudja.

Life here in Mudja is extremely difficult. We are deprived of any assistance from the state or kind-hearted people. … Among the problems we face is that of tarpaulins for our houses.

The bags and tarpaulins are in very poor condition, letting water through every time it rains. We have to take shelter far from the camp to avoid getting soaked.

We also [need]… teachers, so that our children can receive a formal education, rather than simply looking for food in the camp. Learning would enable them to realize their dreams and look forward to a better future, despite the challenges they face as displaced people.

A seated man facing the camera, surrounded by others in a queue.
Daniel Bwaranze Deni.

Daniel Bwaranze Deni: ‘I have no choice but to cultivate other people’s fields’

I’m 42 years old and… I have a family, but we’re all separated, each having gone his own way. Here, I’m only with my wife and three children, most of my [extended] family being in another camp.

To survive here, I have no choice but to cultivate other people’s fields so that they can give me either money or food for my family. This is the first time I’ve received food from the organizations that regularly come to raise our awareness.

My life here in the camp, I can say that we survive by the grace of God.

Either we find something to eat, or we run out of food, that’s how life goes.

Compared to where I was in our village, I lived well, because I was my own boss thanks to my fields. But here, whether I find a field to cultivate or work in someone else’s fields, it becomes very, very difficult.

In our village, my wife sold traditional drinks (musururu). When the war started, we were together at the market. After I’d helped my wife sell, I was busy with my fields, and then it all started. Fortunately, the market wasn’t far from our house, so we went to get the children and escape the conflict.

Since the conflict started, our family has already lost three people. … Two died of illness. One had diabetes because she hadn’t taken her medication for a long time, and the other died of malaria.

My life in this camp is very difficult. If I can’t find a job around, I head out into the city to work for others. I can do a few jobs, but opportunities to work and show off my skills are rare.

Man looking downward, with his hand on a large bag. Woman in background.
Hakiza Munyatshabo Thomas.

Hakiza Munyatshabo Thomas: ‘Every day is a challenge to overcome’

I’m 48 years old with five children and my wife, we are seven members of our family here in the Mudja camp.

In our village, I was a farmer… After a while, we received information that [combatants] were approaching our area and we had to flee.

I came here to Mudja because it was a safe place with water, but the biggest problem was food, which wasn’t easy to find.

Today, thanks to CARE, we’ll have at least a few months [food rations] to survive on, and we won’t have to bury the dead because of hunger. I’m resourceful and I get by pretty well in life. I do shoemaking to earn a bit of money and support my family. Every day is a challenge to overcome here at the Mudja camp. If I eat corn dough today, it’s thanks to CARE and the people who come to raise our awareness.

We just say thank you so much for everything, because you bring us much more than food; you bring us life.

I’ve been here at the camp since February, and the food donated by CARE will be enough for me for about two or three months because I’m going to manage it myself…

For the future, I’d like … help [to] generate money. Tomorrow or the day after, the food donations will come to an end, and we’ll go back to our miserable lives.

Woman with back to camera carries a large bag toward the horizon.
Wivine, a 37-year-old mother of 10, heads to her makeshift structure at one of the camps in Mudja after receiving her food rations of maize, beans, cooking oil. and salt. Wivine has been living in the camp since January 2022, having abandoned her home and farms because of the conflict. She has not been able to make contact with her husband or some of her children.

Between December 2022 and September 2023, CARE DRC has supported more than 23,000 people in the Mudja IDP camp. This has consisted of various interventions, including food (cooking oil, salt, corn flour, beans, and salt), hygiene kits (soap, sanitary towels, underwear, cloth), and protection kits for women and girls. More still needs to be done to intervene on behalf of other affected individuals.

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