The Save the Children driver stands smiling in front of our vehicle and all the tension of crossing the border by foot between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) eases.
After an emergency landing in Burundi, two delayed flights and over ten hours in Nairobi airport, I thought I’d never get here. As I clamber up into the car, I try to push the thought of my lost luggage to the back of my mind…
Getting to this far eastern point of the DRC is not easy – with the DRC being ten times larger than the UK and Goma the other side of the capital, flights remain the obvious choice. But due to the recent violence, Goma airport has closed.
The other option is to cross over the border from Rwanda, which is what I’ve just done.
To the border
After landing in Kigali, Rwanda, I quickly decided to press on to the border – after numerous flight delays there was no time for sleep, food or a shower!
The journey was three hours long and turned out to be one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve ever done.
I had to fight my oncoming exhaustion to keep my eyes open as we curved around the hills and mountains of western Rwanda, looking down over clusters of thatched houses and bountiful green fields.
Suddenly, my adrenaline level rose as the lake came into view and I knew we were in Gisenyi, the border town with Goma.
I got out and joined the queue for the emigration desk with passport and visa in my increasingly clammy hands. I stepped up and explained that I was here with Save the Children’s emergency response team and before I knew it, I heard the clunk of a stamp and was over in the DRC in the beautiful sunshine!
Life in Goma
Save the Children has been working in the North Kivu province of the DRC, of which Goma is the capital, for years.
Although the needs here are acute, they’re not new. Sadly this is an area of the world where children are affected by malnutrition, sexual violence is rife, and conflict and displacement are almost a way of life.
When armed groups took control of Goma in mid-November, families who had left their homes before were forced to move again, leaving behind precious household items and heading into the unknown in search of safety.
Although the situation has been chaotic ever since, Save the Children has scaled up our health and nutrition activities to meet the increasing needs, including those families and children that no one has yet reached.
Families torn apart
One of our health workers met 22-year-old Josephine*. At nine months pregnant she fled her home town to a displacement camp, and then on again to another displacement site in search of safety.
Tragically, her husband was killed in the chaos and she was forced to give birth alone. All Josephine asked for was some food and clothes for her newborn baby, as well as a means of getting home again.
Please donate to help us support more families like Josephine’s, who are facing unspeakable tragedies in eastern DRC.
* Name has been changed.