When the mother of four finally arrived home, neighbors told the grief-stricken woman that rebels had murdered her husband.
Fearing for the lives of her children, Uwimana fled her village to one of the many squalid, informal resettlement camps that have materialized in recent years across the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In a place where countless tragic stories like this are a way of life, World Vision continually seeks to provide critical aid to the most vulnerable who are affected. But most of all, our staff members in the DRC and worldwide are praying for a sustained peace to bring an end to this ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Uwimana is just one among hundreds of thousands in this part of Africa's heartland who have endured unspeakable atrocities, caught in the crosshairs of the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. To hear her story is to understand the depths of relief experienced by survivors of this vicious conflict since receiving news of a peace agreement. It signifies a key step toward restoring stability in the region.
The deal, described as "historic" by one observer, was signed in the eastern Congolese city of Goma on Jan. 23. It includes an immediate cease-fire and the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in 13 key locations, according to the BBC. The new deal also provides for disengagement of troops and the creation of a buffer zone — provisions that many hope will bring to an end the bloodshed in this beleaguered region.
Talks involving the government and more than 20 rebel groups lasted more than two weeks and were sponsored by the United States, the European Union, and the African Union, the British news organization reported.
"The U.S. government played a big part in making this important conference happen," says Rory E. Anderson, World Vision's deputy director of advocacy and U.S. government relations. "It is essential, however, that the international community stay engaged in this process so that there will be real peace in DRC and across [Africa's] Great Lakes region."
The news couldn't come soon enough. In the past 15 months, armed conflict in the eastern DRC has resulted in the massive displacement of people — more than 400,000 in North Kivu province, including Uwimana and her children — as well as increased gender-based violence, malnutrition among children, school dropout rates, and rising numbers of wounded civilians.
In response to the staggering humanitarian crisis, World Vision continues to oversee several projects to assist war-displaced children and families in DRC's eastern region.
Our office there coordinates health, nutrition, and food-security projects, as well as a UNICEF-funded psychosocial project to assist those emotionally traumatized by the war. We also have established a child-protection project for 50,000 children, and our team is constructing 200 latrines to meet sanitation needs in the Masisi area.
Late last month, World Vision's DRC staff distributed survival kits to 6,000 displaced families in North Kivu province, as well as clothing for more than 8,000 children. Supplied by the German government, the survival kits contained two blankets, a water can, soap, and plastic sheeting for use as temporary shelter material.
World Vision plans to scale up its relief response in eastern DRC in the coming months, expanding services to those who remain displaced — particularly vulnerable women and children deeply affected by the conflict, including Uwimana and her family.
"Nongovernmental organizations are trying to do what they can," she concludes. "[But] we need peace above everything."
Hopefully, the recent accord will bring about stability that innocent civilians in this war-torn region long for and deserve.
>> Pray for peace and stability in the DRC. Pray especially for aid groups, including World Vision, to successfully provide emotional and physical healing to survivors who have endured unspeakable atrocities.
>> Register now for Congo Lobby Day, which will be held March 30-April 1 in Washington, D.C. Speak out for peace in the DRC. World Vision is a sponsoring organization of this event.
>> Take action. U.S. leadership can help bring peace to the DRC. Join World Vision in asking members of Congress to contact the U.S. State Department to encourage efforts for peace in eastern DRC.
|Read more about the DRC and what World Vision is doing to meet the needs of those affected by this tragic conflict.|
Three ways you can help
|Pray for peace and stability in the DRC. Pray especially for aid groups, including World Vision, to successfully provide emotional and physical healing to survivors who have endured unspeakable atrocities.|
Register now for Congo Lobby Day, which will be held March 30-April 1 in Washington, D.C. Speak out for peace in the DRC. World Vision is a sponsoring organization of this event.