Rachel is twenty-years-old and lives with her parents, siblings and her 2-year-old daughter (name: Guylaine). She became pregnant when she was 17 with a boy from her village, but he disappeared when he revealed that she was expecting his child. Since August 2018, Rachel has been attending the NRC tailoring class in Kitchanga. These courses will last six months. After training, her dream is to start her own tailoring shop and to be able to give her daughter an education to in the future. She loves tailoring and she has made dresses for herself and her daughter. Before she was selected for the NRC tailoring class, she had nothing to do and now she is very happy to be able to attend the classes.
 
Rachel is from the village Ngingwe, Masisi territory, which is six kilometers from Kitchanga in the North Kivu province. She and her family had to flee during the night four years ago when the clashes broke out between armed groups. They travelled the whole night and reached Kitchanga in the morning. Rachel was very afraid when she had to flee and during this violence where she lost her grandmother and uncle. She misses them a lot. Rachel is still constantly afraid, and does not want to go back home until it’s safe. Since the attack, some people from the village have been back home to pick up food and their belongings, but they cannot sleep there, as the situation is still unsafe. Rachel has not been back home in Ngingwe since she and her family fled their home.
 
Rachel does not feel safe in Kitchanga either. She is scared that armed groups will enter Kitchanga and take over the town in the future. She does not feel well about being a displaced youth in Kitchanga. It is a big challenge for her because she is sometimes neglected. Since she also a single mother, people austersize her. 
 
There’s also a lack of food in Kitchanga, and Rachel does not have enough money to pay school fees, therefore she dropped out of school after second grade in secondary school. Rachel also struggles to pay for health care and clothes for her daughter. After tailoring class, she usually helps her mother to do some household activities, for instance, fetching water and cooking dinner. 
 
 Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

The forgotten youth

Almost 600 million people between the ages of 10 and 24 are affected by conflict around the world. Earlier this year, we met six young people who had been forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, they tell their stories of chaos, separation and hope.

Being a displaced youth is extremely difficult. In the chaos of fleeing, young people can be separated from parents and relatives, leaving them responsible for younger siblings and other family members.

From being young and carefree, they unexpectedly find themselves in charge of everything. Their once bright future is now muddled with uncertainty, and each day is a struggle to survive. The sudden changes leave them confused, sad and scared, but they have no choice except to carry on with the new responsibilities on their shoulders.

Martin is 19 years old and lives in the Mwaka IDP Camp in the outskirts of Kalemie city. Martin has fled two times in his life; one time when he was a small child which he does not remember much of, and the second time was last year. 
He now lives in a small hut and struggles to find food every day. There’s a lack of food and to survive, he has to wake up early in the morning and go out to cultivate or fetch firewood that he can sell in order to earn some money. If he is lucky, he can earn 1000 Congolese franc, which is about 60 cent (USD). If he is lucky, he can get one meal a day, but there’s days he doesn’t eat anything. 
 
Martin came to the camp last year after he fled from his village Kuzo. There was clashes between ethnical groups in the Tanganyika province where he used to live. The groups attacked during the night and Martin immediately fled into the bush and ran without looking back. Everyone in the village ran different directions and Martin saw many people who was injured. Martin’s father ran in the same direction as him, while his mother ran in an opposite direction. It was total chaos, and everything happened so quickly. Martin didn’t even have time to bring anything with him. 
 
After four hours of walking, they arrived at the camp. The following day, Martin’s father decided to return to their home to see if he could find some of their belongings and secure their animals. Unfortunately, he never returned that day. Martin’s father was killed. 
 
Martin lost absolutely everything he had. He lost all his clothes and belongings. He had 17 chickens and 5 goats, which was the only access to food he had, but he lost them too. Also, three of his close friends died. He used to play football and sing in a choir with them. His brother-in-law was also killed. His mother and 5 siblings are still alive, but they fled to Manono town which is too far away. Martin can’t go there because of the distance and because it would be too dangerous. Martin is all by himself and he has nothing left. He struggles with the loss of his father and friends, and misses his mother and siblings. And on top of the that, the living conditions are not good. 
 
Martin wants to have a better life like other youth in the rest of the world. He had to drop out of school due to the conflict, so he hopes to continue his studies one day. He would like to be an aid-worker and work for an NGO. Unfortunately, he can’t afford to pay the school fees. 
 Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Martin is 19 years old and lives in the Mwaka camp for displaced people on the outskirts of the city of Kalemie, in eastern DR Congo. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of screams, violence and gunshots. There’s no time to waste. You have to run from the chaos, as fast and as far as you can. This is the reality for many displaced people. Sudden violence doesn’t leave you time to prepare.

No time to find his family

When groups attacked Martin’s village, everyone in the village ran in different directions. Martin and his father ran in the same direction, but his mother ran in the opposite direction. Martin didn’t have time to bring anything with him.

After four hours of walking, Martin and his father made it the Mwaka camp. The next day, his father decided to return to their home to see if he could find any of their belongings and secure their animals. Martin’s father never came back.

His mother and five siblings are still alive, but they fled to another town far away. Martin can’t go there because of the distance and the danger. He struggles with the loss of his father and friends and misses his mother and siblings. 

He has been all by himself in the Mwaka camp, in the east of DR Congo, for over a year now. His survival depends on finding firewood to sell for food, and if he’s lucky he gets to eat one meal a day. Some days he doesn’t eat anything.

Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Awezaye, 19, queues up for NRC’s cash and food distribution. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Fleeing for four days on foot

One year ago, Awezaye woke up during the night to the voice of her mother crying and screaming “I’m dying”. Her village was being attacked amid violent clashes between ethnic groups.

Awezaye reacted quickly. She grabbed her little brother and sister and escaped into the bush. They walked for four days. Awezaye’s parents and youngest sister, who was just 18 months old, fled in another direction. Her youngest sister died. Her parents ended up in another area far away.

When Awezaye first arrived in the Mulgani camp, her living conditions were very difficult. She had no access to food and no shelter. She also had the responsibility of taking care of her two younger siblings. NRC was able to support her with shelter and cash-for-food.

Aweyaze really misses her parents, but it helps to know that at least they’re still alive. Her dream is to be reunited with her parents and go back to school to learn tailoring so she can find a job.

Masimango and Bone are brothers and they live together in an IDP camp in the Tanganyika Province. Masimango is 18 years old and fled for the first time in his life with his younger brother Bone who is 8 years old. They used to have a completely normal life back home in Nyunzu, but one afternoon two years ago, there was a clash between ethnical armed groups and they attacked the village. Masimango and Bone had done older sister and one older brother, but they both died during the attack. Their parents were killed as well. They still have some surviving relatives, but they fled to other villages so haven’t kept in touch. Masimango and Bone fled for hours until they reached a safe place where they were given a lift together with some other refugees from the village, with the train to Kaseke. 
 
The life in the IDP camp is very difficult. They are in a lack of food and they can only eat when they receive support and assistance from a NGO, or other people if they are lucky. They depend on support from humanitarian organisations like NRC. NRC has supported them with 50 USD so they received things they need in order to protect themselves and survive. They got a plastic sheet to protect their temporary shelter. If they don’t receive support from NGOs, the only option they would have is to beg. Masimango and Bone has some friends in the camp including an elderly person who support them and sometime provide the food and water.

Masimango is only 18-year-old, and he feels a big burden because he needs to be strong for his younger brother, despite the challenges they meet every day. He is very sad over the situation that they are suddenly in. It’s hard for him to be the only responsible person for his younger brother. The huge life change happened so quickly and they’ve made such a big impact on their lives. Being a displaced youth with no parents who can support them is extremely difficult. They hope for their future to be brighter.

Masimango wishes that he and Bone can go back to school. He had to drop out of school in 6th grade in primary school. Masimango would like to become an aid-worker so he can assist other people in need due to the on-going conflict. Masimango misses his family and his old life so much, but he tries to stay optimistic and says that as long as he gets food, he can stay strong and alive so he will eventually find a job. It’s all about surviving day-by-day.

 Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Masimango is only 18 years old. He feels a burden because he needs to be strong for his younger brother Bone, 8, despite the challenges they meet every day. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Staying strong for his brother

Masimango, 18, and Bone, 8, are brothers in the Tanganyika camp. When their village was attacked two years ago, their parents and older siblings were killed. The two brothers are all that each other has left.

Being a displaced youth without parents is extremely difficult. At only 18, it’s hard for him to be the only one responsible for his younger brother. He feels immense pressure to be strong for Bone, despite the challenges they face every day. He misses his family and his old life.

He dreams that he and Bone will be able to go back to school, and that one day he might become an aid worker so he can assist others affected by conflict. He tries to stay optimistic and says that as long as he gets food, he can stay strong enough to eventually find a job. It’s all about just surviving each day.

Rachel is twenty-years-old and lives with her parents, siblings and her 2-year-old daughter (name: Guylaine). She became pregnant when she was 17 with a boy from her village, but he disappeared when he revealed that she was expecting his child. Since August 2018, Rachel has been attending the NRC tailoring class in Kitchanga. These courses will last six months. After training, her dream is to start her own tailoring shop and to be able to give her daughter an education to in the future. She loves tailoring and she has made dresses for herself and her daughter. Before she was selected for the NRC tailoring class, she had nothing to do and now she is very happy to be able to attend the classes.
 
Rachel is from the village Ngingwe, Masisi territory, which is six kilometers from Kitchanga in the North Kivu province. She and her family had to flee during the night four years ago when the clashes broke out between armed groups. They travelled the whole night and reached Kitchanga in the morning. Rachel was very afraid when she had to flee and during this violence where she lost her grandmother and uncle. She misses them a lot. Rachel is still constantly afraid, and does not want to go back home until it’s safe. Since the attack, some people from the village have been back home to pick up food and their belongings, but they cannot sleep there, as the situation is still unsafe. Rachel has not been back home in Ngingwe since she and her family fled their home.
 
Rachel does not feel safe in Kitchanga either. She is scared that armed groups will enter Kitchanga and take over the town in the future. She does not feel well about being a displaced youth in Kitchanga. It is a big challenge for her because she is sometimes neglected. Since she also a single mother, people austersize her. 
 
There’s also a lack of food in Kitchanga, and Rachel does not have enough money to pay school fees, therefore she dropped out of school after second grade in secondary school. Rachel also struggles to pay for health care and clothes for her daughter. After tailoring class, she usually helps her mother to do some household activities, for instance, fetching water and cooking dinner. 
 
 Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Rachel, 20, and her family had to flee during the night four years ago when clashes broke out between armed groups. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Despite the daily challenges they face, displaced young people dream of a better future. With the help of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), some dreams are becoming a reality.

Dreaming of a brighter future

Rachel lives with her parents, siblings and two-year-old daughter in Kitchanga town. However, she doesn’t feel safe as a displaced youth and is constantly afraid. She also feels ostracised for being a single mother.

She is attending NRC’s tailoring course in Kitchanga, which runs for six months. Before attending the classes, she had nothing to do in the camp. She is now glad to make use of her time to develop new and useful skills. She loves sewing and dreams of opening her own tailoring shop so she can earn money to send her daughter to school.

Albert is a 22-year-old from Tongo in Rutshuru territory, which is 80 to 90 kilometres from Kitchanga. 2 years ago, he, his wife, and two children had to flee to Kitchanga. An armed group attacked his village, shot people, and burned down houses. People ran in every direction, but luckily, Albert and his family managed to get to safety in all the chaos. Sadly, Albert’s older brother didn’t make it and he misses him a lot. Albert witnessed many people being killed that day, including his own brother, and the memories are very difficult to cope with.
 
The living conditions in Kitchanga are worse than in his home village, but he cannot go back because it is not safe for him and his family. The family rents a house and lives together with Albert’s parents. They are quite old, so Albert has to take care of them as well as his own wife and children. 
 
Life is very tough being a displaced youth in Kitchanga. There’s a lack of job opportunities, but sometimes Albert finds work to do in the local community in order to earn money to buy food for his family. Even though he might be lucky to earn some money, every day is a battle to survive. 
 
Albert is attending the NRC Mechanic Training and his dream is to become a mechanic who repairs cars and has a job in a car shop. He loves learning mechanic skills and he is very interested in cars. When he finishes the class, he will look for a job, so he can pay school fees for himself. He would also like to continue studying at the university. He already knows some English and has a diploma from secondary school. Albert would also love to support his wife to start her own business in the future. He is positive and would like to go back home to his village if the situation gets safer and secure in the future.
 Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Two years ago, Albert, 22, his wife and two children were forced to flee to Kitchanga after an armed group attacked his village, shot people and burned down houses. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Hope despite a lack of opportunities

Albert, 22, also lives in the Kitchanga town with his wife, two children and parents. Because Albert’s parents are quite old, he has to take care of them as well as his own wife and children. He tells us the difficulties of being a displaced youth. There’s a lack of job opportunities, and every day is a battle to survive.

Albert is attending an NRC course to train to be a mechanic. He dreams of working in a car repair shop so that he can get enough money to continue his education at university. He would also love to support his wife to start her own business and hopes that one day they can return to their home village together.

Justin Aganze works as a food security assistant with NRC for less than a year.  He was attracted to the organization based on his experience living as a displaced youth years ago in Tanganyika and the NGOs that helped his family during that difficult time.  Justin and his family fled their town and walked for days sheltering in forests and churches with very little to eat.

"Death would have been better because we were suffering so much.  It was worse than hell, " he said.

Justin understands the plight of displaced youth living because of that time he spent having to flee and survive in the worst conditions.  He has taken his work even beyond NRC and works in his spare time as a youth mentor.

Between October 25-26, 2018, NRC offered cash assistance to 7,900 people living in the Mwaka Displacement Camp in Tanganyika province giving them the opportunity to buy food, clothing and household items so that they can survive and have some comfort despite their difficult living conditions.


Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Justin is a food security assistant for NRC. He understands the plight of displaced youth because he himself had to flee and survive in terrible conditions. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Understanding the struggle to survive

Justin Aganze works for NRC. He was attracted to NRC’s cause because of his own experience as a displaced youth. He understands the plight of those forced to flee and their struggle to survive in the worst conditions.

“Death would have been better because we were suffering so much. It was worse than hell,” says Justin, as he recalls the time he and his family fled their home town and walked for days, taking shelter in forests and churches with very little to eat.

Like the aid organisations that helped his family during that difficult time, he also wishes to become a beacon of hope to those experiencing similar hardships. He has taken his work beyond his job with NRC and works as a youth mentor during his spare time.

How NRC supports displaced youth in DR Congo

Many schools in DR Congo have been burnt down during the ongoing violence or are still being used as shelters for displaced people. Many thousands of children and young people displaced to rural villages and camps are not able to go to school, giving them few prospects in either the immediate or the longer-term future. Without any adults in their lives, displaced young people rely greatly on support from NGOs such as NRC.

NRC supports them by providing customised education and training programmes. Through these programmes, the youth have opportunities to be active and engaged members of their communities.

Our education teams in DR Congo:

  • provide learning opportunities to allow out-of-school children to catch up with their peers and reintegrate into the formal school system
  • protect children and youth both physically and psychologically to create a sense of normality and routine
  • train teachers, authorities and other education stakeholders in psychosocial support, peace education, class management, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, and good governance in school management
  • support the rehabilitation and construction of classrooms
  • provide youth with education to develop their skills and guide them towards a profession

Read more about our work in DR Congo