16 Years




16 Years in a
Refugee Camp

   Ndizeye was 23 years old when he arrived at Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda. He met and married Uwimana there in 2005. Asked to recall the details of how she first arrived at Gihembe, Uwimana’s face drops. Then, her head.

“It was terrible,” she says.

Uwimana had lost both of her parents and her sister. She lived by herself among some-20,000 Congolese refugees in Gihembe before meeting Ndizeye.

Refugees in Rwanda’s five established camps receive 7,600 Rwandan francs, the equivalent of roughly nine U.S. dollars, per person, per month. They live in homes built from little more than plywood sheathing. They’re fortunate for the shelter, safety and assistance—yet it is difficult to survive and remain healthy on so little and in a region plagued by illness. The current Ebola outbreak in the DRC is the second largest in history.

“You are safer from the killing and sickness, but you are not at home,” Ndizeye says. “There is not enough food, water. Things are not enough. You are just getting the minimum to sustain.”

Ndizeye was able to earn a small additional sum teaching social studies in the camp, which required him to pass a national exam and train himself. The extra money helped him support his three children—one daughter and two sons—all of whom Uwimana gave birth to while living in Gihembe.


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