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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Conflict diaries: Midday in DR Congo
Each day this week, the BBC is looking at the everyday lives of people living in some parts of the world that are worst-affected by conflict.

Here, Melanie, who lives near the DR Congo town of Bukavu - on the border with Rwanda - talks about her lunchtime.

Woman near DR Congo town of Bukavu
Bukavu's residents suffered greatly due to conflict with Rwanda
My name is Melanie and I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am a teacher. I have 12 children - a mixture of boys and girls.

Every morning the whole family gets together to say a prayer - all the children, and their father. We pray that God may protect us from the bandits and the soldiers and from the war that has been raging in our country for so long, especially in our region.

I have lost two children to the war. The first was a miscarriage which was caused by the noise of rockets.

The second died because of sickness - a bad cold, because when you are searching for a place of refuge you get sick, and my child got sick and died.

Fears

My second daughter, Yvonne, is still with me. I have another daughter, but she's not here any more - she ran away after she was raped by some Rwandan soldiers.

Now I am very worried about what will happen to Yvonne; I wonder where I can put her so that she is safe.

The young boys from the village often go up to the mountain to search for gold - when they don't find any gold they come back to the village and want to steal from people and rob them
We are always anxious as we have girls in the house. We prefer to protect them by sending them into town, so that they may be safe. But I haven't yet found a way for Yvonne to escape from this place and go somewhere else.

In our village we live as farmers. We grow vegetables and banana trees, but these days they do not grow. We don't know why.

Throughout the war people have continued to cultivate their land. Even if there is trouble we are still cultivating our fields, as we must try and gain something to help us survive.

But often our land is looted, usually by the soldiers.

The young boys from the village often go up to the mountain to search for gold. When they don't find any gold they come back to the village and want to steal from people and rob them - I think they learn this from the soldiers.

Whenever we want to go to town, to the market, we have to pass through roadblocks where the soldiers make us pay taxes.

We feel very isolated here and we have many problems. We must always have money to get anywhere.

No money

I come to the market to buy food for my family - flour, three measures for $1.50, and meat - a small slice costs $1.

I come here once a week. Nowadays the situation is relatively calm - in the daytime, there is no trouble. In the evenings there are some people that can cause a lot of trouble. But it's usually OK.

School
Often the pupils say that yesterday they had something to eat at home, but today there was nothing for them
The problem at the market is finding the money to pay for things. People are not cultivating in their fields, which is why we are short of money. That's why I can't afford to buy all the food I need to give to my children and my husband.

Today the children I teach are going to sit their final exam, the end of primary school.

The children are of many different ages because many of them had their education interrupted by the war.

Often the pupils say that yesterday they had something to eat at home, but today there was nothing for them.

This morning out of 195 pupils only 20 brought something to eat; their parents don't have the money to feed them.

There is much misery and hunger here. If they're lucky a family may eat once a day, but often they do not eat anything.

Conflict Diaries are broadcast on the BBC World Service's Outlook programme at 1106 GMT every day this week.



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