Shasha is a small part of the village of Kituva, in the territory of Masisi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This portion of the village is located on the shores of Lake Kivu on the national road N°2 which connects the city of Goma to the city of Bukavu. In this village since February 10, 2023 a mass of population has come to settle on the football field of the Don Bosco Shasha primary school to seek asylum.
The astonished and upset students were demoralized and did not know how to study well. This prompted the Salesians to give the students leave while the war-displaced occupied the classrooms. In total they numbered seventy-nine households. And each household consisted of about 6 people. As the situation persisted, the number of displaced people increased, and as the Salesians could not leave the students unemployed for an indefinite period, they consulted the village chief to convey to him their concern to resume classes. So the village chief had asked them to put the displaced people in a camp on Don Bosco Shasha's land. A new life was beginning for them.
As the people of Israel were camping in the desert, the displaced people came to Don Bosco Shasha. “Since February 18, 2023, our superiors had authorized us to welcome the displaced persons of the M23 war who came from everywhere and to allow them to build the camp to give everyone a place to sleep. This was the beginning of the occupation of the displaced persons of the soccer field of the Don Bosco Shasha primary school. They try to live, but without the hope of surviving” Fr Kizito Tembo, Salesian Community Leader in Shasha says.
“Before this misery who could close their eyes? In the camp, life seems to have stopped. The pupils who studied in their schools of origin, the parents who had their fields, the young people who managed here and there can no longer do so… The war paralyzed everything” ha adds on.
They wake up in the morning not knowing what they are going to eat or how the day will end. Worse still is when it was raining. Families had to huddle around the fire to keep warm. And the disease carried them away. In a foreign land, with no way out or hope for tomorrow, misfortune never comes alone. In this chaos that does not say its name, the most vulnerable classes are pregnant women, the elderly, the sick and children.
After a long road of exile, those who had caught the disease along the way began to succumb. The mourning has begun. Children have become victims of cholera, measles and malnourishment. Pregnant women have miscarriages and others have stillbirths. Misery upon misery. Breastfeeding women do not have enough breast milk; a disaster for babies.
“Faced with such a situation, silence would be complicity. Worse still is the silence of the humanitarian organizations which, while being aware of this situation, because they went to visit, identify, send their agents to see what it was all about. Do nothing to help these people who are suffering terribly” Fr Tembo comments with bitterness.
What are the scourges that threaten them? Many in terms of housing their huts do not have a tarp. And when it rains, the rainwater gets into the huts and the displaced people get really wet. Many people fall ill and not only do not have proper care, but take the medicine without eating. But medicine without food is poison. Malnourished children are those who are numerous due to lack of food. And they were starting to die overnight.
Salesians organized themselves to celebrate Mass for them every Sunday with the Christians of Kirotshe. In the same line they are available to listen to them and give them the sacraments of the Church. In addition, with the support of some friends and brothers, they started giving porridge to malnourished children, and one meal a day so that they can save the few cases from each category.
So much that the suffering is over, the porridge is not only for the children, but also the grown-ups and elderly come forward to receive their portions.
The Salesians intend to give all the children the chance to go back to school with the other students from the beginning of next year, in September 2023 at the Don Bosco Shasha primary school and teach one or more another job to anyone who wants it through a vocational training centre.
“In front of these crowds of miserable people, our action is like a drop in the ocean” Fr Tembo shares. So, he concludes with an appeal: “We invite you all, all over the world to come to the aid of all these populations who are suffering terribly from a misery that does not say its name and whose end is know only to God alone.”
With thanks to ANS for this story