Why a Sheffield man wants to raise awareness about the “trauma and heartache” in Central Africa
Destruction caused by volcanic eruptions, child soldiering, rape, homelessness and hunger, are just some of the issues that are currently taking place in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ghananian-born Sheffielder, Carl Kwaku Asiedu, is a volunteer at Comfort International, a Christian charity working towards helping people in Rwanda and Congo - who have been devastated by poverty, genocide and conflict - rebuild their lives.
He wants to encourage people to learn more about what is happening in Goma and consider offering their support.
A spokesperson for Comfort International, said: “When Patrick Bizimana was just a schoolboy, an ordinary school day was suddenly broken by the sound of gunfire as militia from one of North Kivu’s numerous rebel armies targeted his school. As the teachers screamed at the pupils to run, Patrick's brief flight for safety was cut short as soldiers grabbed him and took him off to be one of DR Congo’s many child soldiers.
“Ripped from his family and cut off from promising progress at school, he was thrust into the frontline of war as the children recruited that day were taught how to loot and kill and rape, with alcohol and drugs doing little to qualm the fear and shock.”
The charity sent workers into the villages to ‘sensitise’ child soldiers and encourage them to escape, in which Patrick did manage to do, and he eventually returned to school.
However, on May 22, 2021, Mount Nyiragongo - one of the world’s deadliest volcanoes - erupted, which killed more than 30 people and made thousands more homeless.
This left many without money, food, or a home, and still with further and worse eruptions to come.
Mothers and their babies have laid “burnt and lifeless in each other’s arms” while homes have been “reduced to scattered smoking ashes and twisted bits of tin roofing”.
People have pleaded for food and water to “keep them alive” and those who had sought refuge in Goma have now been forced to flee.
The spokesperson explained: “Many of the displaced women who have previously sought refuge in Goma have experienced the cruelly common horror of multiple rape by militias. This time they are forced to flee out of Goma from the danger of new volcanic eruptions.”
The women are scared for their children and fear that they may also die from hunger.
It is not yet known when people will be able to return to Goma.
With a similar eruption destroying a third of the city in 2002, Goma is still considered safer than the North Kivu hinterland, where many of its residents come from and which is “prey to the killing and marauding lechery of the rebel armies”.
Comfort International has been coordinating the delivery of basic essentials to those in need and the people of Goma “hold onto the hope that once again, life will turn a corner and trauma and heartache will give way to another rebuild of their lives and homes”.
For more information about Comfort International or to make a donation, visit here.