It's always the women who shoulder the burden of flight in the eastern Congo. Look closely at this woman. She's carrying a mattress, a jerry can for water, blankets, and a baby. She's also most certainly carrying her cooking pot and anything else of value that her family has. Her clothes are clean and her baby has shoes. She's not so thin and emaciated that she is completely malnourished, which means that her children are probably not malnourished either, since mothers usually let their children eat first. Her life is not easy, and she shouldn't have to live this way, but until this, she was probably doing okay.
She'll walk for five miles in flip flops carrying everything she owns until she gets to the camps at Mugunga, where she'll try to keep that baby safe from war and cholera and starvation, until the time comes when she can walk back, hopefully still in possession of these few things, to see what is left of her home.
The BBC has a story today about one woman, Brigitte, who's just fled Sake for the third time in a year. Brigitte walked down the Sake road to Mugunga with her little ones and their things, just trying to stay alive. Maybe her children will be among the 22,000 officials are trying to vaccinate in the camps. Isn't it sad that it takes war for a child to get access to something as basic as innoculation?
E says (everyone says, really) that they are terrified of cholera. The rains have started again and that makes the risk of cholera even greater. All it takes is one person polluting an already limited water supply to set off a chain reaction of disease and death that is difficult to control.
And I am torn. Part of me is glad I got out before the violence started. Part of me wishes I could be there, standing beside E and C and Lyn and Jo, doing whatever can be done to help.
I just reread the story about Heal Africa that ran in Christianity Today last year. Lumo airs next week. Both are reminders that there is good in the midst of evil, that women and children and fathers and brothers who flee are not forgotten.
But, oh, it breaks my heart that they have to walk so far, with no promise of anything at the end of their journeys, and little to return to but a broken world.