Protecting civilians in conflict

Experiences of refugees and LWF field staff in conflict areas

The past years have witnessed a constant reduction of space for humanitarians to provide aid. Civilians and aid workers find themselves between the lines. The protection of the lives and the dignity of people in conflict zones is more necessary than ever.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) operates in some of the most insecure contexts worldwide, and in some of the largest refugee crises. In the following photo essays, refugees and LWF field workers from Northern Iraq, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Colombia share some of their experiences of civilians being targeted in conflict.

Photos: LWF/C. Kästner, Seivan Salim, Elma Okic, Church of Sweden/Therése Naomi Jonsson

World Humanitarian Day 2017

Santina Philipp, 60, from South Sudan:

“Where we live, people are fighting all the time. So when the gunshots come closer, we run. Then we come back when we hear it is safe, and we run again, when we hear of fighting coming closer. There is no rest. You might see your neighbor getting shot.”

Yusuf Mohamed Ali, 42, father of nine, Somali refugee fled 2007 from Bey Dedawa:

“The situation became worse from day to day. We left after my mother and father were killed by a grenade. We had a farm, animals, a piece of forest. The militia came and took everything. Even in our homes at night, we slept in fear.”

Annet Nansubuga, LWF field extension worker, Uganda:

“There is a total absence of law. Even rape is looked upon as normal. Many refugees have experienced gender-based violence when making the dangerous journey through the bush. Most of the violence happened when they were still in South Sudan. (…) It is hard to see someone like that. But they lean on me, and I cannot let them see how much their stories and this situation affect me.”

Read Full Story

Cristo Perez, land mine survivor, Colombia:

"When I stepped on the land mine I was frightened. The explosion lifted my arm and leg, like in a movie. I just stood there, feeling numb, half deaf, dizzy, and then I fell to the ground. I could sense a warm rush of blood filling my boot and tried to stand up. (…) It took half a day until I received medical attention.”

Read Full Story

Andrew Wekesa, LWF manager of the reception center in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya:

“Among the refugees are large numbers of unaccompanied minors. The families send young boys away to prevent forced recruitment into militia.”

Asna, 17, Yazidi woman from Northern Iraq:

“I stayed with that man and his wife and children for two months. Every time I asked about my family, he would beat me. He raped me in his home, but his wife only said: She’s a non-believer, you can do with her what you like.” (The image shows a counselling session in one of the LWF listening centers for women in Northern Iraq)

Read Full Story

Jama Hasan Aden, 47, baker in Shedder refugee camp, Ethiopia:

“I used to be a driver in Mogadishu. When the civil war broke out, men in uniform came and took my car. They tried to kill me. I escaped, but they shot me in my right knee. The scar is still there.”

Iloriza Cabrera Tunas, famer in Choco, Colombia:

"During the decades of armed conflict it was often unsafe to access the farm fields. When armed groups were active in the area, reports of rape and forced recruitments emerged. Sometimes helicopters would come and drop bombs. We didn’t have enough food, we couldn’t hunt. We didn’t feel free and we were constantly afraid. It is better now that we know the government and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have signed the peace agreement, but it’s still uncertain what will happen with the paramilitary groups.”

Read Full Story

Salim Elia, 22, from the DRC (1st from the left):

“I was shot three years ago, my leg had to be amputated. Now they come burning houses and killing people. When they find you still at home, they kill you. We saw our neighbors houses go up in flames, so we fled. We brought only clothes. You cannot carry much when you are running. We could not believe we made it out alive.”

Betty Faiza, 36, from South Sudan:

“I have just lost my husband to the war. I was pregnant when I fled with my five children.  My son Asante Dia (“Fatherless”) was born in the bush when we fled. Our feet were swollen, my children and I were thirsty and hungry but we couldn’t go back because walking to safety was our only option. I wanted my children to grow up away from the sound of gun shots. I wanted to raise Dia and his five siblings in peace.”

Read Full Story