By Heeju Hwang
The look of pain on Nabintu’s face illustrates the horror of what she went through more clearly than words can tell. . She fled with her children, the youngest only a year old. They trekked 150 kms to Kikungwa, a village in the neighbouring province of Maniema, where 72,500 survivors of violence in Shabunda had already sought refuge.
But, even in Kinkungwa, her troubles were not over. A widow without resources, Nabintu realised that the health of her children had dramatically deteriorated in the course of their terrible flight through the bush.
“I was looking at them, remembering this horrible night, thinking of the fate of my husband, of our long journey, of the belongings I’d left behind,” she says, tears rolling over her face. “What misfortune!”
Once enrolled in a WFP nutrition rehabilitation centre, however, Nabintu’s’s children recovered quickly.
“Look at me! Look at my five children! See how we’ve suffered”, she implores. “Without this programme, I could have lost them all.”
Nabintu soon started getting support through a local WFP Food for Work programme involving the production of soya seeds. The family that hosts her and the children gave her access to a small plot to cultivate vegetables and she is now able to feed her children.
In recent months, tens of thousands of people have suffered violence, rape and murder at the hands of various armed groups in Shabunda territory. These gangs are now operating with virtual impunity throughout much of the area, preying on defenceless civilians while international attention has been focussed on the M23 rebellion in the area.
In recent months, as many as 160,000 people are estimated to have fled North Kivu and South Kivu to Maniema, a zone already affected by severe food insecurity. Despite the huge logistical challenges of reaching the area, WFP continues to run a supplementary feeding programme there to help reduce the high levels of malnutrition among young children and among pregnant women and nursing mothers. The displaced continue to arrive in Maniema's Pangi and Punia territories.
Nabintu says she intends to stay put in Maniema, at least until the fighting in her home area has passed.