On 27 August, the school holidays were almost over and seven-year-old Amoni Mukala was soon to start the second grade in Musosa village’s school. Early that evening he was at home with his family when someone started burning some vegetation in a pit near their house.
Unable to resist the spectacle, Amoni ran out of the house and over to join some of his friends watching the fire. Suddenly there was a loud explosion and Amoni fell to the ground, bleeding and unconscious.
Amoni shows the scar from his wound.
”When he saw the fire he went out without telling us,” said Amoni’s father Boniface, who returned from Kawambwa refugee camp in Zambia with his family in 2007, building their house in the middle of the village.
“The next thing I knew, I heard an explosion and ran out to find my son wounded. He was unconscious, and I picked him up and carried him to the health centre. I was in grief, I thought he would die. I was crying.”
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) threatens people every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo – the legacy of a series of armed conflicts between 1996 and 2003. Your donation helps MAG to lessen the threat of death and injury for communities in current and former conflict zones.
In the small health centre at the other end of the village, the medics cleaned the wound and began surgery, removing a two-centimetre piece of shrapnel from the centre of Amoni’s chest. His body is so small, it is hard to know how he survived it, but the operation was successful.
Amoni and his parents.
Amoni was in the clinic for a week, and his father says that for six weeks afterwards he was taking Amoni to the clinic almost every day:
“He kept getting sick. Even now we are afraid for him.” While recovering he suffered repeatedly from infections and fevers, but was finally able to go to school and join his friends in second grade in the first week of October.
The pit where the explosion occurred is in the middle of the village, surrounded by the homes of former refugees now returned from Zambia. Before the explosion no one suspected anything dangerous in this pit, first dug before the war to excavate clay for making bricks, but it and the surrounding pits have now been blocked off with warning markers by MAG staff. In the coming weeks it will be closely investigated by a MAG clearance team.
Boniface now says they have to be careful: “There may be other UXO, we just don’t know where.” As more refugees return, more land is put into use and UXO is found in the process. MAG will continue working in Musosa and the surrounding villages to locate and remove the threat, so that children like Amoni can go to school and play without fear.
The area where the explosion occurred, now marked off by MAG Community Liaison officers for close examination by technical staff.
[Photos: MAG DRC]
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22 October 09
MAG's work in D.R. Congo is supported by: Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; DFID (UK Department for International Development); Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; UK Ministry of Defence; UNICEF; Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State; Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency).