GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo - Elie Kakoulaje sits on the edge of his cot at Heal Africa’s hospital, the stump of his left arm wrapped in a thick bandage.
A few weeks ago, he was an ordinary 12-year-old in North Kivu’s tattered, boisterous capital. Today, he counts among the casualties of the longstanding unrest that has ravaged eastern DRC, displacing more than 900,000 people this year alone.
“He’s sad not to be in school,” says Dr. Luc Malemo, medical director at this Goma-based nonprofit, translating Elie’s remarks in Swahili to a visitor. “He doesn’t know what his future will be with one arm amputated.”
Elie, he adds, “will be among our patients who will need long-term psychological care.”
There are others. The small hospital grappled with a surge of victims from November clashes between the Congolese army and rebels that depleted its limited supplies. Today, roughly half of the 150 it treated are still here.
WFP has long offered food assistance to other Heal Africa patients: victims of sexual violence and children with HIV/AIDs. Now, hospital staff are also cooking up WFP rations of maize meal, pulses, oil and salt for civilians wounded in conflict.
“We’re very grateful to WFP, because if you care for the sick but don’t feed them, you’re only doing half the job,” Malemo says.
Pain and kindness
There is kindness along with pain in the hospital’s small, peeling wards. Bandaged young men hop to neighbour’s beds for a chat. Families drop by to visit.
Everyone has a story. Elie was running an errand for his mother when the rebels marched into Goma. An artillery shell exploded, ripping off his arm
In a cot next to him lies 75-year-old Ndemeyi Ndinbiboya, one leg in a cast, the other amputated. Shells hit his home in Ngungu, a village some 67 kilometres west of Goma. His children transported him to the hospital.
Asked if he is afraid of more fighting, Ndinbiboya offers a dose of grim humor. “I don’t have the rebels’ calendar,” he answers. “So I’m not afraid.”
Sitting beside Elie, his mother Anastasie Masika worries about making ends meet. Her husband is disabled. Masika, who earns a living hauling supplies, is the bread winner for the family of 12. “I can’t work because I’m at the hospital with my son,” she says.
The hospital is looking for a prosthetic arm for Elie. He wants to go back to school.
“I’d like to become a pastor,” he says, “because God saved me from being killed.”