A former refugee now works with WFP to help Burundian refugees

Liberee Kayumba's traumatic experience during the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda inspired her to make a difference in the lives of others. Photo: WFP/Jonathan Eng


Liberee Kayumba’s traumatic experience during the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda inspired her to make a difference in the lives of others. /WFP/Jonathan Eng

During the 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsi in Rwanda, Liberee Kayumba avoided starvation thanks to emergency rations from the World Food Programme (WFP). Today, she is helping to ensure that Burundian refugees in the country have enough to eat.

WFP’s Liberee Kayumba recounts her harrowing experience during the genocide, during which her parents and brother were killed. She was just 12 years old.

The WFP rations she received were literally a life-saver. Now, the same organization is helping some 138,000 refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stay alive.

“I spent three months inside my house not knowing if I would survive until the next hour,” she says. “No one in my family could leave to work or farm [during the genocide], so accessing food was very difficult. We couldn’t have survived without humanitarian food assistance.”

Liberee Kayumba checks food rations at Mahama Camp in Rwanda./WFP/Jonathan Eng

Her experience inspired her to join the World Food Programme (WFP) help make a difference in the lives of others. Having once been a direct beneficiary of life-saving food assistance from WFP, she now works as a monitoring officer for the organization in the Mahama Refugee Camp, a few kilometres from the border with Tanzania, which provides monthly food distributions to nearly 60,000 Burundian refugees.

“Since I was a child, I wanted to help people in need,” she says. “It gives you another heart when you have seen people kill other people and witnessed all the suffering. The memories from the genocide and all those people in need of help motivated me [to join WFP]”. Kayumba not only feels the pain and suffering of fellow refugees, but she also understands the fundamental role food plays for vulnerable communities fleeing from conflict.

“Food is always a life-saving requirement during and following conflict,” says Liberee. “During and immediately after the genocide, food availability was every survivor’s prayer. When we received food assistance from WFP, we rejoiced. I will never forget the yellow maize meal, or pâte jaune, which we ate during this period. I will also never forget the ‘USA’-branded fortified oil and high-energy biscuits, all distributed by WFP to save our lives.”

In the wake of the genocide, WFP distributed emergency food assistance to people in need. WFP still provides life-saving humanitarian food and nutrition assistance to approximately 138,000 refugees from neighboring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But the organization also provides technical assistance to the government and other stakeholders to strengthen food systems against increasing volatility and climate shocks. This ensures that affordable and sustainable healthy diets are available to all, and it helps improves farmers’ livelihoods throughout the entire food value chain. WFP also supports the government to scale-up nutritious and locally sourced school meals to students across Rwanda.

(With input from WFP)

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