In November 2012, the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was on high alert. The notorious M23 rebel group had just taken over, pushing out the Congolese armed forces and rolling past the bases of United Nations peacekeepers.
Since fighting broke out in South Sudan last December between government troops, who support President Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, more than a million people have been forced from their homes. The UN estimates that a staggering $1.8 billion is needed to fund the response to the crisis through 2014, of which only 30% had been secured by mid-May.
Little Mogadishu has been under siege for more than four weeks. Half of the Somali population here is either in Kasarani camp (a makeshift camp set-up at a football stadium 10 kilometers outside of Eastleigh), has been deported back to Mogadishu, or sent to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps. The remaining half, including my brother and I, are forced to stay indoors for our own safety. We can’t go out for food, water, and medicine.
My colleague Michael Boyce and I are currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we will be traveling to both North Kivu Province in the northeast and Katanga Province in the southeast. With more than 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs), DRC has one of the largest displaced populations in the world.
Like most buildings on the seafront in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, the Nady el Togoreen or “Accountants Club” has seen better days. The concrete is crumbling, the paint is flaking, and the club’s two outdoor swimming pools have long since been emptied of water. Now they are filled with broken deck chairs and sunloungers.
Today, I spent the afternoon with a group of Syrian refugee women living here in Cairo. Some of them were considered vulnerable by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and were able to get small amounts of aid for food and rent. Many had children who dropped out of school in Egypt in order to provide for their families. Most had husbands in Syria whom they worried about constantly. All were hoping to go somewhere besides Egypt, but were losing faith that it could really happen.
Hungry and scared, I got up the courage to come out of our building in the morning to eat at a small restaurant on 8th Street in Eastleigh. What happened was so embarrassing. A Kenyan who was eating there immediately ran to the door and closed it before I came in. A few seconds later, the owner opened the door and told me, “Toka hapa” – “Leave here.” I walked back to my house starving.
This was the closest restaurant to our house. The Somali restaurants I sometimes visit were not open. Most of their owners and workers were spending their days in Pangani police station.
Late last week, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for another year. The responsibilities of the mission remain largely unchanged and include protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. But the Council did do something new in the lengthy resolution: they made it clear that they were looking for the exit.