DRC | 2021 | CBPF
Democratic of Congo, North Kivu. Alphonsine* remembers the night of 22 May 2021, when she and her family lost everything.
“Our field, our house and our livestock had gone up in smoke. ” Within hours, the village of Mugerwa was devastated by the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Province of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Pregnant with her fifth child, Alphonsine only wished to get her family out of danger.
After spending a few nights in neighboring Rwanda, they returned to the DRC and were immediately confronted with the lack of space in the sites for displaced people. “We had no choice but to stay in a collective centre,” set up in a primary school, says Alphonsine.
The eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano has weakened many already vulnerable families. Women and children paid a high price, as they are committed to daily household chores, exposing themselves to assault, rape and other forms of violence. “Finding food was a real headache. My husband would go into Virunga Park to look for firewood to make embers and sell them”.
One morning, Alphonsine’s husband was kidnapped, and a ransom was demanded to free him. “For love of the father of my children, I decided to go”. Alphonsine was raped by the kidnappers, just after her husband was released.
“Between the physical and psychological suffering, I didn’t want to live anymore. Until my path crossed with a community organization in my neighborhood. They were raising awareness about gender-based violence with megaphones. From afar, I heard them talking about free treatment in health centres, including in Kanyaruchinya, which is close to my home”.
Like other survivors who arrived at that health centre, Alphonsine was welcomed by a counsellor. “Thanks to the discussions I had with her, I was able to talk to my husband about what happened to me. I was able to overcome my pain, and with her support, my child in the womb and I are healthy.”
Today, Alphonsine and her family live together with a newly married couple who is kindly hosting them until they find a new home. She continues to participate in weekly discussions with other women.
Since June 2021, multi-sectoral assistance in health and protection, implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), together with its partners Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI) and Hope in Action, has provided support to many survivors of gender-based violence in the health zones of Nyiragongo, Kirotshe and Karisimbi.
With funding from the DRC Humanitarian Fund, these organizations provided dignity kits, medical care and psychological support to survivors.
Throughout 2021, the Humanitarian Fund has funded six projects in 11 territories located in the provinces of Ituri, Maniema, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika, to provide medical and psychosocial support to survivors of GBV and to enhance awareness raising in communities.
* To respect anonymity, the names of the people involved in this testimony have been changed.
More information on the DRC Humanitarian Fund:
OCHA – POOLED FUNDS DATA HUB – By Country (unocha.org) https://pfdata.unocha.org/