Volunteers bring porridge and laughter to east Congo displaced children

DJAFFAR SABITI

CUPS in hand, dozens of children stood patiently in line for porridge and a slice of bread distributed at a camp for people fleeing the latest M23 rebel offensive in the east Democratic Republic of Congo.

Over 280,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu province since the group staged their first major offensive in years at the end of March, authorities and the United Nations said.

They attacked again in late May and most recently on October 20 amid heavy fighting with Congolese forces that have pushed thousands to abandon their homes and seek shelter south of conflict areas.

A fresh wave of displacements in recent days has added pressure to strained government and U.N. assistance.

Local civil society groups have stepped in to help as camp populations grow and food supplies dwindle.

At Munigi camp, which houses hundreds of displaced families outside the provincial capital Goma, members of the Goma Actif collective gave out food to children and pregnant women.

Soki Rachel made sure her five children scraped up the contents of their cups, using bread to mop up the bottom.

“These young people who give porridge to our children must be encouraged. They have a good heart,” said Soki, who fled from Rutshuru territory.

Singing and laughter rang out across the camp as volunteers organised games while displaced mothers stirred large bubbling pots of porridge.

“Children are fragile. They are the most vulnerable. They are not really able to manage hunger,” said Goma Actif volunteer Ada Milonga.

Fighting has intensified in recent days as M23 rebels moved closer to Goma, which they briefly overran during their first big insurrection in 2012.

Dunia Bahati Jean, 50, came from the village of Kibumba, close to an area where battles broke out this week.

He sat in front of the makeshift tarpaulin tent that shelters the eight children he fled with, grateful that the youngest would sleep with full stomachs.

“We do not have money to buy flour and make them porridge,” he said.



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