Without food and clothes, DRC’s displaced face grim Christmas | News

In the mega-displacement camp north of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, few people are enjoying the usual Christmas feasts and festivities.

Hundreds of thousands have fled the advance of M23 rebels and have occupied parts of the territory in recent months, with many displaced people settling in flimsy, makeshift shelters on lava fields near Goma. .

The situation in such informal settlements along roads leading to cities of over one million people is dire.

Lucky residents sleep on the floors of schools and churches. But many others build huts out of sticks and tarps. Hunger is rampant and poor sanitation is causing cholera outbreaks.

“We can’t celebrate because we have nothing to eat,” said 35-year-old Olive Pandej with rosary beads to a makeshift hut in Kanyalchinya, a hillside near Goma filled with displaced people. I walked and said

The impression is common. “We are suffering because of war and hunger,” said Justin Muhind, her 25-year-old mother of three.

Her neighbor Sifa said that in her village, usually on Christmas Day, on Sundays, groups of women would raise money to slaughter cows.

“This will not happen again,” explained the mother of four on Christmas Eve. “How can we celebrate without food and clothes?”

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said this week that at least 510,000 people have been displaced in the Rutulu region of North Kivu province since conflict broke out between the M23 and Congolese forces in March.

About 233,000 of them are displaced in the Nyiragongo area north of Goma.

The NGO Save the Children also said Thursday that it had recorded more than 973 cholera cases in two weeks in Nyiragongo.

M23, a Tutsi-led group, emerged from dormancy late last year and advanced across North Kivu, reaching within a few dozen kilometers of Goma.

Despite the hardships faced by those who later fled, many are stoic, although they now camp just a few kilometers from the front lines.

An elderly woman from Kanyaruchinya, who identified herself as Niiran Zavimana, told AFP news agency she had no idea where her next meal would come from, but was grateful that she had saved her life.

“It’s our celebration to see us alive,” she said.

On Christmas Eve, local aid groups organized a food drive in Kannyalchinya, with volunteers wearing Santa hats handing out meals and toys to young children.

The head of one such group, Camille Ntoto, said Christmas is a time of celebration for everyone.

“One of the things we can do is show each other love, generosity and compassion,” he said.

Josephine Riziki, a displaced person from Kanyaruchinya, said the Christmas relief efforts have put smiles back on people’s faces. “By the grace of God, we have a patron who thinks of us,” she said.

Another displaced woman, Fraha Ndahortari, agreed that Christmas was going well “because the children ate.”

But she stressed the importance of finding long-term solutions. “We are in a lot of pain and need help,” she said.

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