Voices

Elodie Kavugho, 41, is a single mother of eight who has fled with her children after her village in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo  was attacked by one of the most dangerous armed groups in Beni Territory. She recalls a two days long walk to reach safer spots, Mangina Town in her and her family’s case although having nowhere to stay upon the arrival: “We walked for two days [...] Our feet were sore for a week; we were massaging them every day.” Further, she’s awaited nine months to access a safe accomodation provided by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

Nearly two million people have been uprooted by insecurity and violence in North Kivu province alone over the past two years. Despite DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi launching a state of emergency on 6 May in North Kivu and its neighbouring Ituri province, armed groups continue to devastate civilian lives. 

UNHCR reports that since 22 June, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are alleged to have brutally killed at least 14 people and injured many others in and around the city of Beni. Several properties were looted, and others burned to the ground.  This was the first attack in two years by the ADF on the city, and the group’s resurgence is terrorizing the lives of inhabitants, as well as Elodie’s too. 

As brutally unfair as it is, Elodie’s case is not an exception. In fact, the number of families fled from Congo keeps arising. Those who manage to have a secure roof over their heads often happen to host a large number of displaced people in their houses. It is the case of Kahambu Mwavuli, 57, who barely has any space left in her house in Oicha in Beni Territory, with more than 25 people, including her own family of seven and the displaced people she has taken in, currently crammed into her small home.

 

Sources:

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/7/60f1311f4/forced-homes-displaced-congolese-dire-need-shelter.html 

UNHCR - Attacks by armed group displace 20,000 civilians in eastern DRC

Congolese PM assesses the situation in North Kivu and Ituri | Africanews

 

 

Author: Benedetta Spizzichino

Maryam is another victim among an estimated 270,000 Afghans who have been newly displaced inside the country of Afghanistan since the start of this year by an upsurge in violence. She’s now found shelter in Nawabad Farabi-ha camp on the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif city, along with her four children. 

While sitting inside her tent, she recalls those endless moments of fear and panic that her flee has meant. Having been forced to move four times in the span of a few years due to internal clashes, her children are unable to attend school and are dressed in worn clothes covered in grime and dust.

The United Nations report that at the beginning of 2021, half the population of Afghanistan – including more than 4 million women and nearly 10 million children – were already needing humanitarian assistance. One third of the population was facing crisis and emergency levels of acute food insecurity and more than half of all children under 5 years of age were malnourished. Those needs have risen sharply because of conflict, drought and COVID-19. Since the end of May, the number of people internally displaced because of conflict and in need of immediate humanitarian aid more than doubled, reaching 550,000.

Recently, Taliban militants retook Afghanistan's capital, almost two decades after they were driven from Kabul by US troops.  Although Afghan security forces were equipped, they put up little resistance as Taliban militants seized much of the country following the withdrawal of US troops beginning in early July. People like Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had enough luck to flee the country, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters, but those people are very few in comparison to those who couldn’t escape and were left behind, just like Maryam. 

 

Sources:

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/taliban-control-afghanistan-explained-intl-hnk/index.html 

UNHCR - UNHCR warns that humanitarian needs in Afghanistan cannot be forgotten

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/7/60f008f54/displaced-afghan-family-struggles-cope-amid-latest-violence.html 

 

Author: Benedetta Spizzichino

Brukti has been forced to flee Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, alongside thousands of others. She worked as a nurse for four years before the violence erupted and forced her to flee her village close to Adwa. “When I heard that people were being killed, I fled together with my son. We saw dead bodies in some of the villages that we travelled through”. As soon as they reached Mekelle, she immediately started volunteering at the site where they found shelter, by providing vital healthcare to other displaced.

Now Brukti is volunteering in a small room stone cottage in Mekelle where over 1,800 displaced people are living, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR has also established ‘protection desks’ in 38 sites in Shire and Mekelle, where displaced people can access vital services and information get psychosocial counselling by UNHCR staff.
Brukti and 15 other trained nurses are volunteering at the small makeshift health centre with the lead doctor from the Regional Health Bureau in Mekelle: “I’m happy to help my community in this critical time, but my hope is for peace to be restored so that I can hopefully see the rest of my family again,” Brutki says.

Across the Tigray region, the conflict has severely impacted the lives of refugees, internally displaced people (IDP) and civilians. In fact, the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region is worsening dramatically due to the constrained delivery of humanitarian assistance. Both refugees and the internally displaced are experiencing a lack of food, water and proper shelter. Despite the challenges and the ongoing hostilities, humanitarian partners continue to scale up the response but according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at least 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.


Sources:
https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/7/60daa5954/displaced-nurses-provide-vital-health-care-others-displaced-ethiopias-tigray.html  
https://data2.unhcr.org/en/working-group/284 
https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1099022 

A microphone, a headset and a powerful story to be told. This is what it takes to turn fear into opportunities, and this is also the aim of the radio show “Good morning, Yaoundé”, run by refugees who seek to narrate their life journeys. Emmanuel Ambei, 30 years old, Chadian refugee student now living in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, is among the students who make it possible. Thanks to a small grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Emmanuel and other refugee students committed themselves to run a radio program spreading awareness on refugees’ plights. “Our objectives are to be able to make refugees speak, to make them known to others and to the world”, says Ambei.

The programme includes field reports and studio interviews. On the one hand, Emmanuel and his fellows record refugees’ lives in camps and urban areas, witnessing the scarcity of work, but also the welcoming feeling of the refugee community toward the group of trained journalists. On the other, the shy voices of refugees would be recorded. Emmanuel claims that they are all connected: not only each story is equally touching, but it also teaches him something new about the lives of refugees in Cameroon, especially of those living in non-urban areas, that are known to have fewer opportunities in terms of education, jobs and healthcare.  

Aired on the main public radio station of Cameroon in June, the project is expected to be expanding soon to other French-speaking African countries. In addition to the primary focus of the project, young refugees are challenging themselves and are creating opportunities: they are being trained in the field of journalism and communication by the International Council of French-speaking Radio and Television (CIRTEF) professionals. This is the case of Mabel, who sees the needs of her refugees brothers and sisters and now nurtures the idea of working in the humanitarian field.

 

Sources:

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/8/6114ed884/good-morning-yaounde-refugees-mic.html

https://www.africanews.com/2021/06/20/refugees-in-cameroon-use-the-power-of-media-to-highlight-their-plights/

https://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/good-morning-yaound-refugees-take-mic

 

Author: Barbara Caltabiano

Linda, 22, and Xolie, 19, being a refugee, know it very well. They are some of the lucky refugee students to get scholarship opportunities to continue their higher education. In 2008 Xolie fled social turmoil in Zimbabwe with her mother and sister while Linda left Burundi for South Africa with her mother in 1998 to again escape to Botswana 10 years later. “It’s hard being a kid in a refugee camp,” affirms Xolile. However, she is lucky as some of her friends have been resettled to a third country, or are back in Zimbabwe. “Life feels more secure than it did before coming to university… we can make plans for the future,” says Linda.

Many refugees in Botswana excel in their studies. Unfortunately, their options after secondary school are limited as the Botswana government only offers full or partial scholarships to their own students and not to the refugees. So the refugees have to go back to their camps where the job opportunities are limited.

Similarly, like many other nations, Botswana is also suffering from COVID 19 pandemic and as happens in difficult times, the females are paying a higher price for it. They are in danger of being forced to get married early or go into child labour to alleviate the poor economic situation of their families.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Skillshare are working together to provide scholarship opportunities for high-performing refugee students. These international organizations are partnering with higher education institutions and private sectors in Botswana to offer such opportunities. This progress is a recent achievement and is expected to multiply in the years to come.

 

Sources:

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/6/60b7abab4/hope-opportunity-refugee-students-botswana.html 

 

 

Author: Giulia Francescon; Editor Shrabya Ghimire

 The rusty, white walls of Solomon Alema’s room are covered in art. Five giant posters and one human-sized painting tower over the humble space. He’s sitting on the floor, dragging his paintbrush down to accentuate his new painting with color. There’s a cluster of clean sketchbooks and vibrant-colored art materials that surround him, illustrating a stark contrast to his dark-lit temporary shelter. For Solomon, his priority isn’t the state of his refugee life, but the safe haven he finds in the comfort of his art.

Solomon is a 29-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tripoli, Libya. He’s one of the 49,000 registered asylum seekers in Libya, but unlike the others, Tripoli isn’t his end destination. He envisioned a future as a hardworking student and a professional artist far from his home country, thrusting his mother to sell her jewellery and his relatives to support him through financial means. He paid smugglers  $5,500 he had garnered to take him to Europe by boat, but halfway through the journey, the Libyan Coast Guard halted the vessel he was in, putting a stop to his ambitions.

After his release from detention, Solomon developed tuberculosis due to the unsanitary conditions and re-entered another detention center to access medical care that he couldn’t have availed on his own. Now, he resides in a community brimming with support and optimism despite the harsh conditions they’re in.

Access to basic essentials is still a figment of imagination to many. Solomon said that his housemates and friends were worried about the lack of food and financial security as they shared meals and other items among the group. “I honestly would prefer to spend everything I have on materials to paint. But life is very difficult and it is not easy to focus on painting when there are other really important things that are priorities for us, necessities for us to survive,” he said in the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR provides asylum seekers and refugees financial, household, medical, and psychosocial support to make their needs meet. Together with the UN World Food Programme, the agency will provide food assistance to around 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers until the end of the year especially to those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and cannot afford to provide for themselves.

While waiting for the said support, Solomon continues to immerse himself in his creative sphere. It’s obvious that there’s a pervasive theme that stands out in every artwork he paints. Each vividly-drawn creation is embellished with biblical motifs and references. “We don’t have any place to pray here in this country. So we use these pictures,” said Solomon. “When people pray, it gives them hope. Using this painting to pray helps them with their faith and makes them feel they are protected from danger.” 

Art has paved a way for Solomon, who has no formal art training, to find the strength to wake up every day. Instead of keeping it to himself, he exposes it to his community to shower hope and light, inviting everyone to favor faith as a weapon against the hostile setting they live in.

 

Sources:

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2020/6/5ef1e85f4/art-provides-comfort-hope-eritrean-refugee-libya.html

https://reporting.unhcr.org/node/12003#_ga=2.137798389.412294645.1593941709-892549232.1593359228

https://www.wfp.org/countries/libya

 

Author: Matthew Burgos