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Congo Refugees Find Shelter on Islands

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Congo Refugees Find Shelter on Islands

World

Congo Refugees Find Shelter on Islands

Congo Refugees Find Shelter on Islands

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5222182/5225467" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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About 4,000 people have taken refuge on two islands in Lake Upemba, in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Melody Kokoszka, NPR hide caption

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Melody Kokoszka, NPR

About 4,000 people have taken refuge on two islands in Lake Upemba, in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Melody Kokoszka, NPR

A four-year-long civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo officially ended in 2002, but ongoing clashes in the east of the country continue to push tens of thousands of people from their homes.

In the mineral-rich but remote Katanga province, several thousand people have taken refuge on two islands in the middle of a lake.

The refugees are fleeing clashes between Mai Mai fighters and the Congolese Army, which is trying to wipe out the militiamen and regain control over what's been a largely lawless part of Central Africa.

Dugout canoes are the main form of transportation on Lake Upemba and the adjacent Congo River. Photos by Jason Beaubien, NPR hide caption

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Photos by Jason Beaubien, NPR

Some 4,000 people who used to live on the shores of Lake Upemba have fled on to islands in the lake to get away from attacks from the Mai Mai militias. They say they feel safer on the island even though conditions are difficult. hide caption

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Most of the people who've fled on to Mitala Island are under the age of 18. hide caption

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The island of Mitala is extremely muddy. People lay grass or reed mats on top of the ground to form a place to eat and sleep. Everything on the island is wet. And sticky, black mud gets tracked everywhere. hide caption

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Fish is the main source of food for people living on the islands in Lake Upemba. The islands are almost like swamps. The ground sinks under your feet and is not very good for growing vegetables. hide caption

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The only source of water on the islands for drinking, cooking and bathing is from the murky lake. hide caption

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Reeds and dry grass are the two primary building materials on the islands. hide caption

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The people who've fled on to the islands in Lake Upemba survive almost entirely from fishing. hide caption

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