On July 21st, I traveled with a team from Arche d’Alliance to the village of Lubarika to observe and report on the refugee situation there. The dirt road to Lubarika splits off from the road and travels through steamy thickets and into jagged hills that resemble dragon’s teeth. We pass soldiers in sweat-stained uniforms carrying rusty AK-type assault rifles. The road is lined with fields of manioc and coffee. Most of the houses are made of locally prepared mud bricks, which make the houses look like they have spontaneously sprouted from the earth.
The first stop we made was at the local clinic, or poste de sante. Here, the medical staff, though strapped with shortages of medicine and medical equipment, combats disease and injury. The clinic has registered 1635 refugees since July 15th, some traveling as long as six days by foot, but also some coming from villages as close as Buheba. From the front door of the clinic I can see the village of Buheba perched on a neighboring hill. A few days previous the FDLR attacked there and burned ten houses. Lubarika is indeed right on the precipitous edge of the conflict. Upon interviewing several of the men of Lubarika, they revealed that they feel somewhat safe, since there are two brigades of FARDC stationed on two sides of their village. However, in the Congo such things can change in a terrible instant.
The Congolese way is one of hospitality, so the citizens of Lubarika have opened up their homes to the refugees. Most of the refugees have come to Lubarika because they have family there, but there are some who are lodging with strangers. One man I spoke with has twelve refugees living on his property. Some of the refugees have found work in the fields, while others have had to depend on the charity of the villagers for food. Despite the hospitality and karibu of the citizens of Lubarika, the influx of refugees presents the tiny village with a grave problem. Work and food are hard to come by, and the clinic staff informs me that the rise in cases of malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition are taxing the already-stressed resources of their tiny clinic.
Mr. Sambuko and his team of inqueteurs interview several of the refugees and ask the clinic staff what kinds of medicines and medical supplies they desperately need. Among the refugees, they want to know about the numbers of elderly, physically disabled, children without parents, and victims of sexual violence. Arche’s final report will enable other NGOs quickly assist the refugees and the communities hosting them.
In Part III, we will look at the lives of two women who have fled their home villages as a result of the recent FDLR attacks.
Posted By Walter James
Posted Jul 24th, 2009