Kids

Volunteers bring porridge and laughter to displaced children in Eastern Congo

GOMA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Cups in hand, dozens of children patiently queued for porridge and a sandwich to be handed out at a camp for people fleeing the latest M23 rebel offensive in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo.

More than 280,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu province since the group staged its first major offensive in years in late March, authorities and the United Nations said.

They attacked again in late May and most recently on October 20 amid heavy fighting with Congolese troops that has prompted thousands to leave their homes and seek shelter south of conflict zones.

A new wave of displaced people in recent days has strained aid from the government and the UN.

Local community groups have stepped in to help as the camp population grows and food supplies dwindle.

At the Munigi camp, where hundreds of displaced families live outside the provincial capital of Goma, members of the Goma Actif collective distributed food to children and pregnant women.

Soki Rachel made sure her five kids scraped up the contents of their cups and mopped the bottom with bread.

“These young people who feed porridge to our children should be encouraged. They have good hearts,” said Soki, who fled the Rutshuru area.

Songs and laughter filled the camp as volunteers organized games while displaced mothers stirred porridge in large bubbling pots.

“Children are vulnerable. They are the most vulnerable. They can’t really cope with hunger,” says 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 major uprising in 2012.

Dunia Bahati Jean, 50, was from the village of Kibumba, close to an area where fighting 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 on a full stomach.

“We don’t have the money to buy flour and make it into porridge,” he said.

Reporting by Djaffar Sabiti; Written by Sofia Christensen and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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