Agnes Mukamana with her children at the Nkamira Transit Centre. Copyright: WFP/John Paul Sesonga
Fighting in eastern DR Congo forced close to 20,000 people to flee their homes to Rwanda in recent weeks and others are still coming.
Fighting between Government forces and rebels in North Kivu has forced many to flee to Rwanda through the Grande Barriere in Gisenyi. When they arrive in the country, the refugees are temporarily hosted at the Nkamira transit centre in the Rubavu district of the Western province of Rwanda, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Authorities at the transit centre register over 300 people every day. All of them have one thing in common: they left everything behind, their houses, their farms and other belongings. “My husband was shot by the rebels and I immediately ran to the bush with my two children. We had cows and other belongings. We left everything to the rebels,” said Marry Murekatete, a thirty one-year old mother of two. She added that she believes a lot more people are still trying to make their way to the Rwandan border.
When the refugees arrive at the Nkamira transit centre, the World Food Programme assists them immediately by giving them enough food to feed themselves and their families for an initial fifteen days. After that, authorities help them relocate to a camp in Rwanda's Southern province where they will continue to receive assistance from WFP.
“Food is among the most urgent and vital needs of the new arrivals, and WFP is mobilizing resources to ensure they do not fall into hunger,” said Abdoulaye Balde, WFP representative and country director in Rwanda.
With the influx of new people arriving in the past few weeks, the Nkamira transit camp has become overcrowded. It was planned to accommodate 3,000 people, but now it is occupied by over 7,000 refugees. Thousands of them are now sleeping outside, in the middle of the Rwandan rainy season.
In response to this situation, a team made up of officials from the Government of Rwanda and UN agencies, including WFP, has been deployed to the transit centre and at the Rwandan border with Congo to provide humanitarian assistance.
When you enter the camp, you quickly notice that many families arriving in Rwanda have been split. Some family members have made it across the border, others are still in DRC. Congolese at the transit center said that they felt safer here.
The Kivu region in Eastern DRC has been experiencing conflict and instability since the early 1990s. As a result, Rwanda has been hosting 54,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the three refugee camps of Nyabiheke, Kiziba and Gihembe. Women and children account for 83% of the total refugee population.The refugees rely on the help from the World food programme. Some have been living in Rwanda for years and have little hope of being able to go back to their country soon.
John Paul Sesonga is from Rwanda. He has a law degree and a diploma in journalism from the Uganda Management Institute. He wrote various articles on economic and legal issues for Rwandan media outlets before joining WFP.