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Jacquie: a widow with seven children, victim of the conflict in North Kivu

Emergency Explosive weapons Health Rehabilitation
Democratic Republic of Congo

Jacquie, 32, the mother of seven children, shares her story and the story of her daughter, who lost her leg in clashes between rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (North Kivu)


Jacquie, mother of 7 children, with her doughter Kelvine, both victims of conflicts in North Kivu, Rutshuru,

Jacquie, mother of 7 children, with her doughter Kelvine, both victims of conflicts in North Kivu, Rutshuru. Kelvine follows rehabilitation sessions with HI | © Patrick Meinhardt/HI

Jacquie was living near Buito, North Kivu, with her husband and their six children. She left school at a young age.

"One day, the teacher hit me. After that, I never went back. I had to help my parents in the fields anyway. Nearly three years ago rebels broke into our home and kidnapped my husband. We found him dead in our field a few days later. It was a nightmare. After he died, the other women in my village began to criticise and judge me. A widow with so many dependent children - no one wants that. Then there was another attack on the village. We had to flee. We ran out of the house and the rebels started shooting at us. Our neighbours fell dead, one after the other. My little girl, Kelvine, who was eight years old at the time, was shot in front of me. I fainted. When I came round, I was in a health centre. They told me she was alive and being treated at Rutshuru hospital. When I finally saw my daughter again, she had had her right leg amputated.

Kelvine had rehabilitation sessions with HI and did psychosocial support activities, which helped her. She spent more than two months in Rutshuru hospital. When she was strong enough, we went back to our village. But this land is torn by conflict, they attack us repeatedly, burn our houses, and rape women, so we had to flee again. I rented a small house in another village and started working in the fields. I earned one euro a day (2,000 Congolese francs). How could I survive? I met a widower, who asked me to marry him. I was very sceptical: why would a man agree to take care of a woman and her six children? He promised me he would take care of them, and he started paying for medication, and for Kelvine's care. We got married and I fell pregnant... The day I gave birth, he said to me: "Leave your other children behind, we're going to Uganda, just the three of us." I refused, and he abandoned us.  
Today I live in a straw house with my seven children. Kelvine still goes to the hospital, receives help from an HI physiotherapist, and takes part in psychosocial support activities with other children. She plays, talks about her feelings, and is starting to regain her confidence. She sings in a choir. But we're so vulnerable. People criticise us. They say my daughter will never marry. And I'm doing my best, but I'm so scared". 

Date published: 25/07/23


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