In just the last month, fighting between the army and rebels in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has displaced 100,000 people. Many are now living without humanitarian assistance and in very precarious conditions.
Mathotine Dz'dai, 44, fled her village of Bavi, 60km south of Bunia, early on the morning of 23 August, before the bombing and gunfire began.
She fled with her 20-year-old son and his children, including a three-month-old baby. A few days later, her son was killed in a road accident, leaving her to care for her grandchild. She found refuge in a primary school playground. There, she told her story to IRIN.
"I found myself in Nongo [50 km south of Bunia] because of the weapons and bombs the FARDC [the DRC army] are setting off on the militia. We fled to prevent the children from being injured or dying. The fighters are out there; they will kill. It’s the thought of… a baby like mine, here, being shot dead that scared us and forced us to leave.
“When we arrived here, my son fell ill, and we had to take him to hospital. Unfortunately, the motorcycle we were travelling on collided with the motorcycle of one of the locals here. My son died on the spot, and we buried him here. He was just 20 years old.
“He left behind his three-month-old baby. The child really suffers, he cries all night.
“And I don’t have money to care for or feed him. I just had 200 francs that the [locals ] here contributed to us. I just use it to buy milk to give him.
"Here, we have no sugar, no salt, no medicines. If it rains, we suffer. After the rain, the ground on which we sleep gets muddy, and then it gets very cold. As we don’t have a mattress, we sleep on straw that we pulled from the bush by hand.
“We don’t know what to do. All of this happened to us when we fled from death… and now we’re risking death again. Another displaced person died like this. They found his body in the bushes.
"We were also looted. We hid our stuff in the bush, but people searched until they found it. They even looted the fields. We have nothing, no clothes; we’ve just been living the way you’ve found us here.
“We urgently need shelter, pans for us to cook, and cloth to help me cover the child, who has become an orphan after the war.
"I have another grandchildren here.
"To get food, we do casual labor. We cultivate the fields. Unfortunately, I am unable to work hard myself since I had a caesarian section.
"We are still afraid to return home because the FARDC are continuing to pursue the militia everywhere. We are afraid of them, and we’re also scared of the militia.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.
We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant.
But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced.
You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission.