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FOCUS: HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE UN
Voices: Displaced in DR Congo
Forced from their homes by the fighting, 60,000 people now reside in the Kibati camp.
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2008 08:53 GMT

The Kibati camp for internally displaced people houses about 60,000 refugees [GALLO/GETTY]

The UN estimates that there are 564,000 displaced Congolese who have fled their homes since fighting broke out between government forces and armed Tutsi rebels in August.

Some 383,000 have been displaced in North Kivu alone and 70,000 more remain inaccessible due to poor roads and insecurity in the region.

The Kibati camp, just north of the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma, is home to about 60,000 of them.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has been trying to increase its food deliveries and humanitarian assistance to the Kibati camp.

At the camp, I spoke to Muzambizi, a 23-year-old farmer who lost his home, farmland and crops when the fighting reached his village, and Burekeriyo, a mother of nine, who fled her village with seven of her children when it was attacked by rebels.

Muzambizi, 23


Muzambizi with his wife and son in Kibati
"After breakfast I left my home and went to work in the fields.

While I was busy working I heard shooting that went on and on. Without thinking I started to run back to my home to get my family.

We left everything behind and started to run towards somewhere that was safe.

We found a place not far from our village that was relatively safe and stayed there for four days.

Then we decided to move to one of the camps that we heard about; we had to walk for nine hours and it was extremely difficult for my wife and child but we had no other choice.

We didn't have any food with us but sometimes local people would give us something to eat and some water.

Once we got to the camp my son got ill because of the difficult journey. We were so worried as he is our first child and we could not bear to see him suffering.

Every person from my village fled when the fighting began.

The young people were most worried as they feared being recruited by the army or militias. I am still worried about being taken by the army and having to fight against their enemies.

My mother was killed by a militia at the start of September as she was making her way to the camp. I wasn't with her at the time and the situation was so dangerous that I could not go back to find her body. I have no idea if she was properly buried or if she was left by the side of the road.

Some 383,000 have been displaced as a result of the fighting in North Kivu
Life here is very difficult and full of suffering. There is nothing to do as there is no work and I find it very hard to get enough food for my family.

I want to be able to work hard and provide for my family but there is nothing I can do while I am in this camp.

We are given a small amount of food every month which is barely enough for the three of us. Now imagine what it is like for those families with seven, or even ten members.

I really want my son to go to school so that he can learn to read and write. I want him to be a teacher and to teach other children and make their future bright. But at the moment I can only think about keeping him safe and well.

With less food his health is severely affected and he is also suffering from diarrhea. But the health care in this camp is not enough for all the thousands of people who need it.

We have to collect wood from the nearby forest to use for cooking, light and heat. But we are always afraid that the militia may attack us, and I am very worried that they may rape my wife. Because of this we don't go to the forest any more as we do not want any more trouble.

Because of this conflict my family has suffered so much and has lost so much. We are now living like beggars as we have no home, no land and no animals. I don't want my wife and child to have to live like this. 

We want to go back to our village and start living the way we used to with respect and dignity. But at the moment we can't even think about returning because of the fear that we may be killed. 

All these people in this camp are suffering the same way as me and my family - both physically and mentally. No one is able to help each other as everyone has so many troubles to deal with.

I just want peace in our area so that people can live normal lifes."

Burekeriyo, 45


Burekeriyo with seven of her children
"I was at home on a normal day when all of a sudden I heard shooting. This became so intense that I got all my children and ran out of my house. We kept on running, following the others who are also fleeing their homes.

I couldn't think of anything; my poultry, livestock or my possessions. My only concern at that moment was to make sure that my children were safe.

We walked for two days stopping at various points. One night on the way it started to rain, we had no shelter and my children had to sleep under the open skies. It was cold and there was nothing I could do to protect them. I felt so helpless and I started to cry.

After two terrible days walking in the mountains, we finally made it to Kibumba where a camp had already been set up. My children and I stayed there until the situation deteriorated even further and we had no choice but to move once again.

One month ago we arrived at this camp, Kibati. Life is very difficult. As I am not yet registered I don't get the food and other assistance that is given to those displaced people who have been registered. But some generous people here provide me with a little bit of food. It is barely enough for the eight of us but this is all we have and we have to make it last.

My whole day is spent struggling to find food for my children. I also need plenty of food for myself as I have a young daughter who I am still breast feeding.

My children and I are getting weaker and weaker by the day.

Unfortunately, I can see that is not only their physical health that is deteriorating but also their mental health. Every day they ask about their father. He has been missing for over a month and I have no idea where he is. I just tell them: "Your father has died and he is never going to return."

I really wish that their father was still around as things would have been slightly better. It is such torture not knowing what has happened to him. I have no idea what state he is in, or even if he is still alive.

Back home I had goats, sheep and some poultry which I left behind because I was more concerned about my children. I have no idea what has happened to them but I assume the militia took them.

I don't know about the condition of my house but most probably it has been destroyed.

Burekeriyo fled her village when it was attacked by rebels
I used to work as a farmer and we had a small piece of land where we would grow various crops. When I left my village it was almost time to harvest our potatoes and I was looking forward to selling these and buying something for my children. But those crops will have been destroyed by now. I also lost the seeds that I had in store and my farming equipment.

Life has changed so much for me and my children and things are getting worse day after day. We do not have enough food, I have no way to make a living and my husband is missing. Our life before was simple but there was enough food for my children and we had a comfortable house that we lived in as a happy family.

Now our home is made out of a plastic sheet and some branches that I gathered from the nearby jungle.

Eight people live in this tiny shelter which is really uncomfortable. Because there is so little space we prefer to spend most of our time outside, but when it gets dark we have no other choice but to remain inside. When it rains it is impossible to sleep in this shelter.

We are living with the constant fear of gunmen coming to this camp and hurting people. It is quite insecure here in the camp and the militia can come any time and do anything. They killed a girl the other day just because she showed resistance when they tried to rape her. There are many young girls and mothers in this camp and we have the constant threat that they may harm us.

As a mother I not only worry about providing food for my children but also for their safety and security. As a weak woman there is little I could do if something were to happen.

Back in our village my children used to go to school, but here they don't have that opportunity. Unfortunately there are so many problems that I can't even think about my children's education but am just worried about their survival and getting enough food for them.

I have to collect wood from the nearby jungle which I use for cooking and for lighting. When I can't get enough wood it means I cannot cook any food and we have to spend the evening in darkness.

I really hope that the war stops soon so I can go back to my village with my children. Everyone in this camp is suffering and I request that those who can do something to please help to bring peace to my area so we can go back to our homes."

For Al Jazeera's coverage on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, click here.

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Al Jazeera
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