Displaced families are crammed inside the Church of Light in Nyunzu village, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some 100 men, women and children huddle together inside this small, thatched-roof sanctuary, sheltering from torrential rains. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Nyunzu village, Democratic Republic of the Congo – DR Congo has been declared the country worst affected by conflict displacement in the world, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre.
The Congo crisis has outpaced Syria, Yemen and Iraq in the number of people forced to flee in the first six months of the year. An average of 5,500 people a day are being uprooted from their homes because of violence and insecurity.
The crisis is set to worsen ahead of planned elections in 2018, following failed attempts to organise elections at the end of 2017. Analysts from the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) have forecast that postponing the elections is likely to incite grievances among communities in Congo, which may turn into violent protests. They predict the widespread frustration is also likely to be used by armed groups to muster support.
The result will be a further deterioration of Congo’s humanitarian crisis.
Sheltering in one small church in Tanganyika Province, dozens of displaced families are a microcosm of what is happening across this central African nation.
Liliane Mwayuma, 36, and her three-year-old son, Yvon, shelter in the Church of Light. Children in the church sleep on wet soil, thinly covered by empty sacks of sugar. Their raw coughs are muffled by the rain spitting through the straw roof. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Parents say their children suffer from malnutrition, malaria and other illnesses. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Four people, including two children, have died since September, when the group fled to the church for safety. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
A woman warms a child under a blanket as rain pours down outside the Church of Light. An upsurge in violence in several parts of Congo, starting in 2016, has prompted more than 1.7 million people to flee their homes this year alone. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Vumi Mukenia’s husband was killed when attackers pillaged their home in Kaselumbwa village, 46 kilometres north. “I discovered his lifeless body in our field hit by arrows, when I returned home after the attack,” she recalls. Vumi fled to Nyunzu village. She has been sheltering in the Church of Light since, with her daughter and newborn baby. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Vumi, 34, gave birth to a little girl the day before this photo was taken. Up until she went into labour, she spent her days farming other people’s land, earning no more than 50 cents a day to feed her six children. ‘How will they survive now?’ she asks, as she cannot leave to look for work. ‘I haven’t eaten all day.’ [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Many families forced to flee inside Congo depend on farming to earn a living. Unable to plant or harvest, families survive on less than a meal a day. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Mangaza Marthe is one of 100 Congolese who have fled to the Church of Light because of inter-communal violence in Tanganyika province. The violence has not only been widespread, it has been extremely brutal. Razed villages, attacked schools and children recruited as soldiers are the hallmarks of this conflict. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Congolese woman and children stand by the altar in the Church of Light. DR Congo was declared the worst affected by displacement in the world by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Mbuyu Kaleba, 43, is the pastor and caretaker of the Church of Light. He has become the caretaker of this displaced community too. ‘I work in my own field and in other people’s fields, to earn money for the families sheltering in my church,’ he says. ‘Often I don’t have enough cash to send my own children to school because of what I give to the families. I’m pleading for humanitarian aid for all displaced people in Nyunzu village. They need help.’ [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]
Despite the United Nations sounding the alarm about Congo’s crisis in October, when it declared it a major emergency, little has changed since. Money has only trickled in to help the 13 million people in need. [Christian Jepsen/Norwegian Refugee Council/Al Jazeera]