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Fleeing Violence in DRC and Finding Refuge And Assistance in Rwanda

Congolese Refugees in Rwanda

At the end of June 2012, at the border post often called "Grande Barriere", there was a steady stream of Congolese people crossing on foot to seek refuge in Rwanda.

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Louise Betta left her North Kivu village when fighting started. She had just crossed the Rwandan border and was waiting to go to the transit centre for refugees with her two children. When asked how she felt, she smiled and said she hoped her husband would join her in Rwanda. He was away when she fled and she wasn't sure where he was.

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After crossing the border, Congolese seeking refuge in Rwanda are driven to Nkamira Transit Centre.

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At the transit centre, the World Food Programme provides food immediately after people arrive. Other UN agencies and partners distribute blankets, soap and other essential items. Here, everyone goes through the registration process that gives Congolese fleeing their country the refugee status.

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Most people arriving here have walked for days to reach the border. With the food they get from WFP, families cook what is often their first full meal since they abandoned their home.

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Once the registration process is done, Congolese board buses and go to a camp further inland where they will be able to settle down with their families. 

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Rwandan authorities quickly realized that with the influx of people seeking refuge in their country, they needed more space to accommodate them. Kigeme Camp, located in the south of Rwanda, opened in June. The camp was originally designed to house 12,000 people, but now, everyone here is preparing for more refugees.

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WFP continues to provide food assistance to people who are now living at Kigeme Camp. This woman owned three cows and made a living as a farmer in Masisi. She is now in Kigeme, alone with her two children and doesn't know where her husband is. She says that as long as she has food for her children, she can cope with her new life as a refugee.

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Mutoni Nebra was living in the village of Kiroriwe, in North Kivu. A few weeks ago, she heard gunshots nearby, gathered her children and left everything behind. She and her six children have been living at Kigeme Camp since mid-June. She says without the food she gets from WFP, she doesn't know how she would feed her family. Her husband managed to call someone else in the camp shortly after they arrived. He had good news for them: he had made it across the border and was going to join them soon. In the meantime, Mutoni's eldest son, Patrick, kept enquiring about the opening date for the school for refugee kids. "I can't wait to go back to school," he said. "If I could get shoes too, that would be great. We left so quickly, our shoes stayed behind."

Starting in the past few months, violence in eastern DRC has forced tens of thousands of people to abandon their homes and leave everything behind. Many have taken refuge in Rwanda, where they receive assistance from the authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.WFP makes sure nobody goes hungry.