Only the darkness will bring them back to their mother. She waits, rocking their baby brother on her back, and hopes that her older children will appear. “This is how they were, even in DRC. They would go and play and return in the evening to find I already went to the garden, got food and prepared it, ” Nsengiyuava says with a slight laugh. Refugees from DRC reach safety in a field at Bunagana, south-west Uganda. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/ShutterstockHer children’s play is the only thing that remains constant for her. She walked throughout the night, reaching the Ugandan border after dawn. She left behind her husband and grandmother.
‘You hear bullets, you run’: Congolese refugees stream over Uganda’s borderThe rain will determine what time Uwimana Nsengiyuava gets on the truck to Nyakabande transit centre, where Uganda is hosting 20, 000 refugees who, like her, have fled fresh fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since March, up to 500 refugees a day have been silently streaming into the east African country via Kisoro, a picturesque district in south-west Uganda dotted with endless hills, streams and a lake. Uganda is home to 1. 5 million refugees, the most hosted by any African country.
She left behind her treasured saucepans, some only bought recently. She could not even pick out clothes for herself and the children. “When you hear bullets, you run and try to save your life. You take what you can and leave behind everything else, ” she says. The journey to safety is hard and unfamiliar. People often travel long distances on an empty stomach – pelted by the rain, scorched by the sun and sleeping under trees when night falls. “They reach the border tired and hungry, ” says Emily Doe, the area representative for the World Food Programme (WFP). A family fleeing from DRC eat at the Nyakabande transit centre.
Photograph: Sumy Sadurni/AFP/Getty ImagesLast year, the WFP gave $44m ($35m) in cash and nearly 80, 000 tonnes of food to refugees. This is only a fraction of what refugees need to survive. Even with the generous support of donors such as the EU, US and China, the WFP is unable to provide full food rations to refugees. The refugees most in need receive a 70% ration while the relatively less vulnerable receive a 40% ration. All new arrivals, including those in Nyakabande, receive full food assistance for a month. “The fire never goes off.