Military Offensive Displaces Congo Civilians

Africa map showing the Democratic Republic of Congo i

The U.N. has deployed its largest peacekeeping mission, more than 17,000 troops, to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Enlargement shows the small village of Dubie, where the population has almost tripled due to the inflow of displaced civilians. Melody Kokoszka, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melody Kokoszka, NPR
Africa map showing the Democratic Republic of Congo

The U.N. has deployed its largest peacekeeping mission, more than 17,000 troops, to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Enlargement shows the small village of Dubie, where the population has almost tripled due to the inflow of displaced civilians.

Melody Kokoszka, NPR
A mother and her baby at a refugee camp in Dubie, in southeast Democratic Republic of Congo.

Many of the people who've arrived in Dubie have spent months living in the bush. Malnutrition and disease rates are extremely high among the displaced people. Jason Beaubien, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jason Beaubien, NPR

In the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, several efforts are under way to stabilize large parts of the country ahead of national elections in April.

The United Nations has deployed thousands of troops throughout the country. And the Congolese army recently launched an offensive to drive militias from the Katanga province in the country's southeast. The military offensive has pushed tens of thousands of civilians from their homes.

The small village of Dubie, near the Zambian border, is at the center of a humanitarian crisis. In the past year, its population has swelled from 10,000 to nearly 30,000.

In three sprawling camps on the outskirts of Dubie, men have built simple, shoulder-high shelters of sticks and bamboo. Barefoot children in rags race among the huts. Smoke from cooking fires mixes with the midday heat and makes the camp at times feel like a smoldering inferno.

In November, a new wave of refugees arrived in Dubie after the Congolese army launched an offensive to try to wipe out Mai Mai militias. Some people say the army ordered them to come to Dubie. Others say they came to get away from the militias.

When refugees arrived by the thousands in November, the only international aid group working in Dubie was Doctors Without Borders. The medical agency quickly found itself providing food, shelter and clean water to the refugees.

Similar scenes have unfolded throughout Katanga province as people flee the military offensive against the Mai Mai. Goedela Van Bavel, the project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Dubie, says the biggest problem now is a lack of food.

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