Eyewitness account of a refugee camp in DR Congo: 'People displaced by the fighting are starving here'

 
 
Our Observer Alain Wandimovi recently visited the Mugunga refugee camp in North Kivu, a northwestern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the end of April, the Congolese military has been deployed throughout North Kivu to track down army deserters who are loyal to rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda. Our Observer saw thousands of refugees who lost everything when the cla forced them to flee their homes. Today, all they want is to go back to their villages to save their crops.
 
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that between May 10 and 20, around 40,000 people from North Kivu were displaced by the fighting. Tens of thousands of families have sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Uganda.
 
Former rebels from the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) became part of the national army three years ago. However, at the end of April, they deserted. Criticising President Joseph Kabila for not respecting the treaties that were signed in 2009 regarding their integration into the army, these disaffected soldiers now support the former head of the CNDP, Bosco Ntaganda, who is currently on the run. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court, which has accused him of committing war crimes during the armed conflicts that ravaged eastern Congo in 2002 and 2003. The Congolese military believe that Bosco Ntaganda ordered those loyal to him to desert.
 
 
Photo caption: In the last few days, the Congolese authorities, alongside aid organisations such as the UN Refugee Agency, the World Food Programme and Caritas, have been handing out medicine and food parcels to Mugunga’s refugees.
 
The Mugunga camp is located several kilometres west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu. The camp has existed ever since this region got caught up in the conflicts between armed groups and other African countries, principally Rwanda and Uganda, over twenty years ago.
 
All photos were taken by our Observer, Alain Wandimoyi. 
Contributors

'I saw a woman giving birth outside without any assistance'

Alain Wandimovi is a Goma-based blogger and photographer. On May 23 he visited the third section of the Mugunga camp (the camp is divided into three), where refugees have been arriving from Masisi, an area 60 kilometres northwest of Goma.
 
When I arrived in Mugunga 3, I was shocked by the conditions in which the refugees were living. In the last two weeks, almost 6,700 people have arrived in Mugunga 3, and the camp is a mess. There are no toilets, and the tents are completely falling apart. Some people are sleeping in the buildings that are used as schools for the children, but most people are just sleeping on the ground. I saw a woman giving birth outside without any assistance. There are many old people wandering around on their own, and many people are ill. Aid workers hand out food – corn flour and vegetable oil – but it’s not enough. These people are suffering from famine.
 
 

 
 
During the day, some men go to nearby building sites to try to find work, but the majority just stay here and wait. When they saw me taking photos, people thanked me and said they “would let the world know that we exist”. Everybody I spoke to in the camp told me the same thing, that what they want is not humanitarian aid but to go back to their villages to save their crops.
 
 
 
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