This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.
After three years of relative peace, waves of combat erupted again in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province in April 2012, causing major population displacement. Fighting in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory between government forces and rebel fighters from the M23 movement caused tens of thousands of Congolese civilians to seek shelter across the border in Uganda, mainly in the Kisoro district. Many joined UNHCR-organized convoys to the settlement of Rwamwanja, which was opened last April to deal with the influx. By the end of 2012, the settlement was hosting more than 30,000 refugees. Each refugee family is given a plot of land on which to construct a home and plant crops and encouraged to become self-sufficient. UNHCR wants to urgently improve infrastructure at the settlement and has appealed for supplementary funding.
This photo set follows one family at Rwamwanja, led by 52-year-old Harerimana. The family lived in the Rutshuru town of Bitwo but fled when it came under attack last June. Harerimana became separated from his family and spent five days on the road on his own before finding his relatives in the forest. After two weeks, they crossed into Uganda and reached Nyakabande Transit Centre. They then registered to be moved to Rwamwanja, where the extended family now lives on two plots of land.
The Nyakabande Transit Centre in southern Uganda was reopened by UNHCR and the Ugandan government in February 2012 to cope with a growing number of Congolese civilians crossing the border to escape general lawlessness in Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province. Initially designed to cope with 500 people, the transit centre has been swamped with new arrivals fleeing waves of violence since April between DRC government forces and fighters from the rebel M23 movement. UNHCR helped expand capacity to 11,000 people and arranged transport from the border, but the inflow placed a severe strain on the facilities. The centre has registered and assisted more than 51,000 people since January, most of them from North Kivu. At its peak, last July, the transit centre was hosting more than 10,000 refugees. In a bid to decongest the centre, UNHCR provided transport for more than 30,000 Congolese to the refugee settlement at Rwamwanja, some 350 kilometres to the north of Nyakabande. For many of those fleeing eastern DRC, Nyakabande was a beacon of hope and a haven from the storm convulsing their home region. The latest fighting in North Kivu in November has not had much of an impact, but people still arrive daily.
During the ceaseless cycle of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is the vulnerable who suffer the most, especially women and children. The issue of widespread sexual and gender-based violence is a major concern for UNHCR, but it never goes away. The refugee agency has received dozens of reports of rape and assault of women during the latest wave of fighting between government forces and rebel troops as well as militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces. It is an area where rape is used as a weapon of war.
The fear of sexual and physical violence forces thousands of women to seek refuge away from their homes or across the border in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. Often their menfolk remain behind and women become the heads of household, looking after young children. They are the bedrock of society, yet they are often the first to suffer when instability comes to their home areas.
The following images were taken recently in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda by Frédèric Noy. They depict Congolese women who have fled their homes, leaving almost everything behind, and sought shelter in a place they hope will be better than where they came from. In many ways they have become inured to hardship, but so many of them continue to retain hope for themselves and their children. And that is an inspiration to those who help them.