Rebecca Wimana was seven months pregnant when she lost her house in Jomba in the conflict raging in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“When I heard the bombings, we left the house with the children to go and hide in the bush. In the evening, when there was a lull, we came back and found that our house was burned down,” she said.
Ms. Wimana was alone at the time as her husband was looking for work in Kampala in Uganda. Heavily pregnant, she and her five children walked seven kilometres to Tata Mwami Rugabo II stadium, a camp for displaced persons. They arrived tired, hungry and without any possessions.
“I had no hope because I lost everything when my house was burned,” she said.
The camp was set up for people displaced by armed clashes between the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23). A large part of the population has been displaced to Rutshuru, as well as the borders with Uganda and Rwanda.
Providing vital sexual and reproductive health services
A few weeks later, twins Mwayonimana and Issaka Kwiseka were born to Ms. Wimana at Rutshuru Health Centre, which is supported by UNFPA as part of the Emergency Reproductive Health Response Project for people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Rutshuru, with UNCERF funding. Ms. Wimana was assisted by trained personnel to avoid potential complications, and the newborns received essential birth care.
“I am really happy because I gave birth without any cost and without any problems, thanks to the medical staff who took care of me,” she said.
The new mum, named “Nyabadeux”, which means mother of twins, received a delivery kit and information on modern contraceptive methods for family planning, the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) and gender-based violence (GBV) from UNFPA-supported humanitarian midwife, Fyfy Omoy.
“The big difficulty is to find enough to feed [my] family and to clothe these babies, who are still naked except for the two pieces of loincloth that I divided to cover them,” Ms. Wimana said.
Health facilities affected by the crisis
Health facilities in the Rutshuru and Rwanguba health zones have been overwhelmed since the beginning of the M23 crisis in March this year. An estimated 33,000 households of about 166,000 people have been displaced in Rutshuru territory, according to a report from a multi-sectoral assessment mission conducted by UNOCHA in April.
Deliveries at Rutshuru Health Centre have doubled, up from 73 deliveries a month to 150 deliveries. The facility does not have a large capacity, according to Head Nurse Jean de Dieu Bakuru: “The capacity of our structure has become insufficient. We are even beginning to refer women who do not have high-risk pregnancies, for fear of not knowing where to put them after delivery. For the prenatal consultation, for example, we used to receive 37 to 40 women, but now we have 197 women. Hence the urgent need to raise awareness about family planning,” she said.
In addition to houses and schools burned and looted during the clashes in Jomba region, several health facilities were looted and destroyed. At least 8 of the 21 health facilities in Rwanguba Health Zone have been looted, according to local civil society, as reported by UNOCHA. The same applies to Bugusa and Chengerero, which were emptied of medicine supplies and medical equipment.
In response to the crisis in Rutshuru, UNFPA supports five health facilities and a general referral hospital with a grant and reproductive health kits for 10,000 vulnerable people. In addition, 950 dignity kits have been distributed to survivors of sexual violence and visibly pregnant and lactating women. This care is being provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities in the health zones of Rutshuru and Rwanguba.