Rwanda

Kibati camp, on the outskirts of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo is crammed with people looking for shelter and food. There are new arrivals walking on the tarmac road, terrorised and distressed. They have fled fighting in their villages less than 50 kilometres away and they are looking for refuge from a war that has already displaced more than 1.4 million people. In the past month 250,000 more, many of them children and elderly have added to this number. 

The ceasefire a month ago has failed. So has the peace agreement signed earlier this year by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, Rebels have control of the surrounding mountains and their is gunfire in the distance. It is unnervingly close at times.

Congo

"SCENE OF DESPERATION AND CHAOS": Michelle Rice greets some of the displaced people living in Kibati Camp, on the outskirts of Goma.

 

"Most are scared and cling to the hope that peace will be restored and they can return home. But they live in uncertainty about what will happen next and how they will look after their children."

Kibati is a scene of desperation and chaos. Before the recent fighting thousands of people already lived on the brink here, in crumbling overcrowded homes without running water or sanitation. About 65,000 people have arrived since last month. That's on top of the local population. The newly arrived make the best of the situation, squeezing into already overcrowded homes, fashioning homes out of grass and plastic, or sheltering under verandas and awnings or worse, out in the open. One home no bigger than 4x4 metres was housing 12 people and babies. 

Three weeks ago the town emptied out when the frontline of fighting moved to within a couple of kilometres. Sounds of machinegun, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade echoed across the air. The 10 kilometre stretch of road leading into Goma was lined with masses of people who had picked up their meagre belongings and were once again on the move further south.

But today, with the frontline pushed back north, the Kibati camp is again jammed with people. 

The rugged black, volcanic rock roads are lined with exhausted, resigned people, most of them women, children and elderly. They are surrounded by bedding, blankets, pots and stoves and anything else they have managed to grab as they fled homes or camps.

Most are scared and cling to the hope that peace will be restored and they can return home. But they live in uncertainty about what will happen next and how they will look after their children. 

On the road into Kibati, streams of people are still arriving along with trucks crammed with people on top, heading south away from the rebel activity. Women pass by with tiny babies on their backs, old men hobble alone with walking sticks, and small children carrying smaller children traipse past. In the opposite direction trucks pass loaded with government troops, guns and UN vehicles.

Rebel forces of the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) are accused of the recent attacks in Kiwanja and Rushuru, going from house to house looking for Mai Mai (one of the main militia groups involved in the war), and any other people suspected of collaborating with their enemies. 

The horror stories are never-ending. A 17 year old boy was dragged from his home by rebels and made to load all his possessions into their truck before they shot him. A woman who'd been shot told how the rest of her family were killed as they fled their home. We spoke to groups of people who were angry about the war, tired and very hungry. 

But the solutions are not so easy. Last month a UN food distribution effort went horribly wrong when two young children were trampled as desperately hungry people stampeded the trucks.

World Vision is one of many agencies delivering urgently needed shelter, blankets and emergency items for people who have fled their homes. But the need is great and the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen with each day of fighting. 

World Vision has launched an emergency appeal Congo in Crisis and pledged US$2 million for relief, but this is likely to rise. Donations to the appeal will be used to provide urgently needed relief support to thousands of Congolese.

To support Congo in Crisis visit www.worldvision.com.au