In early May 2023, devastating floods caused by relentless downpours wreaked havoc in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Rivers surged beyond their banks, submerging villages in water and mud, claiming more than 450 lives, and leaving over 2,000 people unaccounted for. Hundreds of children have been separated from their families or orphaned. The damage affected over 3,000 homes, washed away four schools, and left communities in ruin and farmlands ravaged.
In the aftermath of the tragic events, affected communities have united in their grief and are forging a path forward. World Vision’s local communicators shared these photos as they responded to the emergency needs of those affected. Along with the photos, you’ll read stories of survivors and discover how they’re being supported as they recover and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Boulders, mud, and debris dominate the landscape that was once the thriving community center of Nyamukubi (shown above), which bustled with people during market days. Familiar landmarks — markets, schools, churches, and health centers — now lie in ruins. “No one prepared me for this devastation. Incomprehensible!” says Jean-Baptiste Mirindi, senior communications officer for World Vision in the DRC.
“I lost four children to the recent floods in Bushushu. I lived and worked for my children, and now they are suddenly gone. I don’t even know where to begin to recover,” says Celestin (shown above), a farmer and the president of a local agricultural cooperative supported by World Vision.
Extreme weather events, like these catastrophic floods, have tragic impacts on communities that are already struggling with poverty and hunger. In response, World Vision is investing in agricultural training and technologies that help mitigate the effects of extreme rain events.
Celestin’s wife, Dorcas (shown above), holds their only surviving child tightly in her arms. The mother experienced an unfathomable loss — four of their children died in the floods on May 4, 2023. Alongside this unimaginable grief, they lost their home and business in Nyamukubi, one of the most-impacted communities in South Kivu province. The floodwaters swept away not only their beloved children but also everything they owned: her 46 rabbits and 23 hens, their flourishing garden, two sewing machines, kitchen utensils, and their hard-earned savings. As a result, Dorcas’s psychological well-being has been profoundly affected.
Dorcas and Celestin’s family was able to get vital nutritional support through World Vision’s partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP). We’re also providing water purification supplies, household essentials, and dignity kits that contain essential hygiene and sanitary items, offering comfort for women and girls who have been displaced.
Amina, a former World Vision volunteer, sits alongside her 10-year-old daughter, Dorika (both shown above), in a temporary shelter, their refuge from the disaster. With tear-filled eyes, Amina recounts the harrowing events when her family and home were swept away by the treacherous floods.
“The rainwater came and took us all away with the house. After about five minutes of going down with the rubble … I got stuck in the mud before two men came to rescue me and rushed me to the hospital late at night,” shared Amina, who was eight months pregnant at the time. “When I woke up, I learned that my husband and two of my children had been found dead and that four other children were missing.”
The weight of grief has left Amina exhausted. “I don’t sleep at night anymore. When it’s dark and I go to bed, images of my husband and children start to flash through my head one after the other. All the beautiful memories of each of them come back to me and leave me crying.”
Amina’s family is among 11,000 households who received essential aid from World Vision, including vital energy biscuits and household kits. As of mid-June, we have delivered food assistance to over 35,000 people in Bushushu and Nyamukubi. Our response continues to expand, helping families like Amina’s regain their sense of purpose and equipping them to rebuild their lives.
Despite the unbearable pain, a glimmer of hope emerged as Amina gave birth to Eva on June 14.
Every morning, Amos Masumbuko (shown above), principal of Mabula Primary School in Bushushu, carries a heavy heart as he walks through the classrooms. Memories of the children who are no longer present, such as Nathalie Bwimba, a sixth-grader, and Amani Chiringa, who was in fourth grade, weigh on his mind. “They were distinguished by their singing of the national anthem and their courage to keep the school clean, but died in this unforgettable tragedy,” Amos says.
Amos says the lives of students and teachers have been upended in this disaster. The once-busy classrooms now bear empty spaces on benches, and area schools that weren’t destroyed are damaged. Families are grieving, and friends of the missing students are devastated. During attendance checks, Amos hopes to hear the familiar voices of students. “When I do roll call in the classrooms, and I call the name of an absent child, his colleagues say either he died or he moved with the others; it gives me anguish,” Amos says. The school’s enrollment of 773 students has decreased to 304.
Amos, the dedicated principal of Mabula, held a strong vision of creating a safe and peaceful environment for all students before the floods. Now, he and the school community are rallying together, providing comfort and support to one another as they strive to heal and move forward. Mabula plays a vital role in offering quality education to children in the Bushushu village and is among the 35 schools supported by World Vision’s Sasa Tunasoma project funded by USAID.
Amid the ruins left by the deluge of flooding and landslides in Nyamukubi, a small structure stands untouched. The latrine (shown above), built by World Vision, served as a safe and secure sanitation service for residents frequenting the central market, which is now among the ruins.
Sifa (shown on the right), a survivor of the devastating floods and landslides, receives rice and beans during a food distribution supported by World Vision in Kalehe. While mourning the loss of loved ones, Sifa remains grateful for God’s protection and that her children survived the disaster. Sifa is among the 50,000 people who are being supported with life-saving essentials through our partnership with WFP.
Though she faces an uncertain future, Sifa remains optimistic because she knows that through years of experience with World Vision’s programming in her community, she can make a difference in helping the community heal.
Recovery will take time. Aline Napon, World Vision’s national director in the DRC (shown on the right), dresses in black for mourning during a tour to assess damage in Kalehe. “These extreme weather events are having a terrible impact on children. Girls and boys are losing their homes and sinking further into poverty and hunger. When their parents lose everything, including their crops, they are forced to pull their girls and boys out of school, marry off daughters as children, and send them out to work. The human impact is not just physical but leaves long-lasting mental health scars too,” she says.
Aline places her arms around Lydie and Lavie, siblings who tragically lost their parents in the disaster that struck their home in Bushushu. Speaking softly, Lavie (shown on the right) bravely shares his survival story, having been trapped under mud before rushing waters threatened to sweep him away into Lake Kivu. He received medical treatment and stitches for his deep wounds during his hospital stay. The children expressed their needs for food, clothing, and the security of a home.
“By reading stories alone, you cannot truly appreciate the impact of this crisis on families. I met a village chief who lost three children and his wife, I met a mother who lost her husband and two children, and met children who lost their parents, and their stories broke my heart,” Aline says.
Aline adds, “It will take a long time for this population to be consoled, because what happened here is beyond our comprehension.” In a moment of prayer, Aline joins hands with Lydie and Lavie.
Join Aline in praying for the families and communities in the DRC:
Heavenly Father, I come to You with a heavy heart, asking that You comfort and strengthen the families who lost loved ones in the devastating floods and landslides in Kalehe, DRC … Grant peace and hope to the girls and boys, like Lydie and Lavie, who are in the midst of pain and suffering as they learn to face life alone, without their parents. Give us wisdom to support the children who are still struggling and confused. Please protect and provide for the orphans. Bless and reward everyone who has helped us provide food, high energy biscuits, water purifiers, basins, soap, blankets, and clothes. I pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Geoffrey Denye, emergency communications specialist; Rodrigue Harakandi, communications officer; and Jean-Baptiste Mirindi, senior communications officer, all from World Vision’s office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, contributed to this article, along with Sevil Omer from World Vision’s office in the U.S.