One morning this spring in Rebecca’s hometown, the ethnic militia began burning the houses of everyone whose origins could be traced to Kasai Central.
Rebecca was at home with her parents as they began desperately trying to flee. The attackers shot and killed her father, then advanced on the rest of the family with machetes. Her mum was cut down, and they continued to chase Rebecca and her little brother and sister through the bush. Rebecca fell down as they cut at her; her siblings continued to flee.
A friend’s mother found Rebecca and helped her to her aunts’ village nearby. They found her brother and sister along the way, and Rebecca’s aunts treated her cuts with lemon and alcohol.
Rebecca’s left arm and side of her face bear the scars of her escape.
“After I was treated we left and took refuge in the bush again,” Rebecca remembers. “We spent one month without eating much of anything before we finally decided to make our way towards Kananga.”
It took Rebecca and her siblings a week to make their way on foot towards Katoka Province, in Kasai Central, where Rebecca left her little brother and sister with a family member and continued on to her grandmother’s house in Kananga.
“We aren’t living well here; there’s no one to help use with our school fees,” Rebecca explained, frustrated. “In Tshikapa I was already in my second year of secondary school [8th grade]. My little siblings were studying too, but can’t anymore.”
Rebecca desperately wants to go back to school again. Before the crisis, she was studying to become a tailor. Now her goal is to get back into school, and to start a sewing business at the same time so she can earn a bit of money to help support her grandma and siblings.
“We need help in order to survive; my little sister and brother and I have suffered a lot. Our country needs peace.”
Although there are still some tensions near Tshikapa, Kasai Central and the rest of the region is now mostly peaceful. However, many families like Rebecca’s have lost everything they have and are struggling to rebuild. UNICEF estimates that over 300,000 children never finished school last year as they fled violence and attacks on schools. Even now, an estimated 150,000 children have lost access to schooling through a combination of destroyed schools and increased family poverty. 3.2 million people in the five provinces of the Grand Kasais aren’t getting enough to eat.
World Vision declared a Category III National Emergency in the Kasais in June 2017, and has been targeting 146,000 beneficiaries in the Grand Kasai region, as well as refugees who’ve fled to Angola. Initial interventions focus on food and child protection, with a fundraising goal of 2million USD.
Working with World Food Programme we have distributed foodstuffs to more than 90,000 food insecure people in Kasai Central since August. In the realm of child protection and education, WV is opening six Child Friendly Spaces, conducting back to school distributions of bags and supplies, and planning education interventions which will reach over 30,000 children affected by the conflict.