Zero Hunger is ambitious, but it’s achievable. Working together, we can help change people’s lives for the better, and we can reach our goal of ending hunger by 2030. Today, we’re sharing some of the success stories that prove that we can help create a brighter future not just for individuals, but for the world.
Pappy Chimalamungo was forced to serve as a child soldier during the protracted armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We’re helping Pappy and hundreds of thousands of other children like him to rebuild their lives, restoring trust and stability through enabling them to share meals with former rivals.
Pappy Chimalamungo was only 14 years old when rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) invaded his village, Mwenga, in South Kivu province. The rebels looted households and murdered villagers. Pappy’s father was amongst those killed in the attack. In response, a self-defence militia group was formed to combat FDLR rebels. Pappy, along with other boys his age, was forced to join the militia in 2000.
A childhood in combat
The boys’ main tasks were to carry ammunition, and fetch water and firewood. They were forced to walk long distances to collect fruit and steal food from other people’s farms. After three gruelling months under this tyranny, Pappy managed to escape and reunite with members of his family in Uvira Territory. To his horror and dismay, Pappy was intercepted by another rebel group in Uvira. He was told to join the rebellion or be killed. Again, the young boy’s only option for survival was to pick up a weapon and fight for his life.
Peace come to Congo
Following a peace agreement with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in 2002, Uvira rebels finally agreed to disarm. Teenagers like Pappy were demobilized and handed over to the Office for Voluntary Action in Support of Childhood and Health in Bukavu (BVES). They were then transferred to a Transit and Orientation Centre supported by WFP, UNICEF and other partners. After three months of psychological counselling, Pappy re-enrolled in secondary school.
“I came out of the bush very weak because of hunger. But WFP’s [food assistance] gave me strength and courage to survive and continue with my studies,” Pappy says.
In 2007, he completed his secondary education and started pursuing a degree in Sociology at the University of Bukavu.
“I am interested in Sociology because I want to understand the drivers of human behaviour in a given society,” he says. “Understanding these drivers is fundamental in finding sustainable solutions to such social phenomena like armed conflicts and the enrolment of child soldiers.”
“I am a real example of how a child soldier’s life can be transformed,” he said. “Children associated with armed groups most often think everything is lost and that they can no longer get back on their feet. I am telling them recovery is possible no matter what they have experienced in the bush.”
Since the creation of BVES in 1996, hundreds of thousands of child soldiers have been demobilized. More than 30 former child soldiers have made their way through university after completing a literacy training and psychological counselling programme supported by WFP.
While forced to fight, child soldiers loose contact with their relatives. As a result, transitioning ex-child soldiers are deprived of the stability and resources that had been a part of their former lives. During the first three brutal months after an ex-child soldier defects, they find WFP assistance is the most steadfast source of food and an important and consistent source to help restore trust.
While improving beneficiaries’ nutritional status, WFP food forges social cohesion between children—most of whom were rivals when they were soldiers. Every day, lunch becomes a time when these strong children chose to sit together over shared rations of cooked maize meal and beans.
One Future, #ZeroHunger
As Pappy’s story shows, food helps forge vital social bonds for the countless children tragically caught up in conflicts and made to fight against their will. You can help us to eliminate hunger and help child soldiers like Pappy enjoy a brighter future. Visit our Zero Hunger page and add your voice to the movement that aims to end hunger by 2030.