While the armed conflicts continue in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of people who have been forced to flee from their homes struggle to survive in camps for the internally displaced around the city of Goma. Among them are several hundred people living with handicaps who have had to walk between ten and fifty miles from their villages. Ndohondi is one of them. She is living in a hangar in Camp Mugunga 3, sharing the space with 38 others who are also handicapped. She explains that she wouldn’t be able to guarantee her children’s survival without the help of HEAL Africa. “Before, because of my handicap, the only way I could feed my children was to beg for food, but now HEAL Africa brought us not only flour, beans, oil, and firewood, but especially, HEAL Africa is providing me with medical care, and I think I will be healed!” Ndohondi had congenital malformations in both feet when she was born, and this has always made it hard for her to move around easily.
When the war started in her village of Kibati in May 2012, Ndohondi fled with her children toward the camp of Kanyaruchinya, a camp of displaced people situated 12 kilometers North of the city of Goma. In November, when the rebels of M23 (Movement of 23 March) started marching toward Goma, Ndohondi and her five children once again had to take to the road. The camp of Kanyaruchinya, where she had had sheltered for several weeks, emptied quickly of its 30,000 displace people. “People started to flee, I asked my children to go with their grandmother, as I couldn’t keep up with them. At one point I was feeling very tired, and so I asked a passing motorbike taxi to help me, and it was he who took me to a center, where an ambulance of HEAL Africa picked me up to bring me here to this camp,” she tells us.
Since then, she has been living in the camp of Mugunga 3 with her children. As there isn’t enough room to house her five children in the hangar where she lives, in the evening two of her children go to live with their grandmother in a little tarp shelter nearby. “Sometimes when it rains at night, I ‘m afraid for my children; they might get sick because of the cold”. But despite this situation, Ndohondi has a reason to think that the life in the camp for the internally displaced isn’t only negative. “In Kibati, I was living only by begging, because I couldn’t work because of my handicap. But now I’m getting medical treatment for my club feet, and if I am healed, I think I will also be able to work, and feed my children”, she says.
Ndohondi, 37 years old, is part of 10 displaced persons whose congenital malformations are being cared for at HEAL Africa’s hospital, thanks to a program funded by the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) organization. “The doctors of HEAL Africa came to the camp, and they took us to the hospital where we were stayed for treatment for three weeks, and then they brought us back here”.
Since then, Ndohondi has casts on both of her feet and legs. She can’t get up, and spends entire days on a thin mattress laying on the ground. Sometimes it worries her: « What scares me is that if the war comes here again I won’t be able to flee, because I can’t get up off this mattress!”
But in spite of this fear, Ndohondi has chosen to prepare for a future without her handicap, and she’s spending her days learning to make baskets. Another woman living with handicap that she met in her shelter has volunteered to teach her this skill. “When I am completely healed, I’ll start to make and sell baskets; I think it will enable me to guarantee the survival of my children,” she says, who remains optimistic about her own future, and that of her five children.