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For Congo's Mothers, Unceasing Loss

The deaths of her children began in the 1990s, shortly before a militia group raided her home village for the first time. Her oldest son, Kalfando, had recently died of tuberculosis. As Kinyama and her husband raced into the woods, her oldest daughter, Madeline, was developing a worrisome cough.

Before the war, the family had fields of cassava and rice, five goats, and 22 chickens that provided both meat and eggs -- vital protein in a region with few other sources.


Nsimenya Kinyama holds her new son, not yet named because his father is traveling. Congo's war, ended by a 2002 accord, " has made us poor," she said. "It has brought hunger, and it has given us a hard life." (Craig Timberg -- The Washington Post)

_____War in the Shadows_____
Interactive Primer: Nine audio chapters trace the history of a decade of conflict in the Congo.

By the time they emerged for good, after years of shuttling back and forth on foot, the fields were bare, the animals stolen. And Kinyama was childless.

Madeline had died at age 10 of tuberculosis. Daviko, Masudi, Kambala and Kinyama (his father's first name, also used by his mother as her last name) were all gone before their third birthdays from a mixture of malnutrition, fever and, in one case, jaundice.

Kinyama said she has done little in the past few years but grieve. The sight of other children caused her intense pain. She wished, above all, to bear another child.

Her new son, not yet named because his father is traveling, arrived smaller than she would have liked, about five pounds, and he had jaundice, a condition caused in babies by improper liver function. It is easily cured through exposure to sunlight and, even here, is rarely fatal.

But Kinyama worries.

For a woman who has suffered such loss, she has a surprisingly quick and warm smile. When the subject is something other than the deaths of her children, she often laughs.

As she walked from the hospital to the home of a relative on the fifth day of her son's life, Kinyama appeared joyful. It was a pleasure, she said, to be a mother again.

Yet there were moments when her eyes lost their focus, her smile slackened. And Kinyama looked like nothing so much as a mother who had suffered more than anyone could bear -- and who fears that her suffering may not be over.

"I don't know whether this child will survive," she said. "It is God's will. Maybe I will keep this child. Or not."


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