“I live in the Tse Lowi [camp] with my son and six grandchildren. In February, it will be two years since we had to flee our village,” said Yvonne, in front of the straw hut where she now stays.
“Armed men descended on the village after dark, setting fire to our houses and killing people in a most dreadful way. My son’s wife died that night. They burned down my house and we had no choice but to flee in the middle of the night, taking nothing but the clothes on our backs. We walked for three days and spent three nights sleeping in the bush to get away from the attackers. I was scared. We finally reached Tse Lowi on the third day.”
Yvonne is one of thousands of people displaced by conflict in the Ituri province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since fighting between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups that gripped this province in the early 2000s reignited in December 2017. She now lives in the Tse Lowi displacement site with her son and six grandchildren. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that more than a million people have been displaced by the violence since then, although it is almost impossible to know the exact figure due to frequent population movements. Today, some 200,000 people have spontaneously gathered and settled in sites without access to food, water, or medical care. Hundreds of thousands more live with host families.
Inside Yvonne’s hut, one of her grandsons stoked a fire crackling beneath a bubbling saucepan. The hut seems fragile, as if it could go up in flames with the slightest gust of wind. The straw structure is now home to eight people, for whom it serves as both kitchen and bedroom.