Luambo — At only 35, Nsenga Malu has lived many lives. In one, she was a girl growing up in the city of Luambo, in her home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then, her childhood halted abruptly when she married at the age of 15 and immediately began childbearing. Within 13 years, she’d had eight children, with an average of 11 months between pregnancies.
The pregnancies increasingly took a toll on her health and ability to work. “When I am pregnant, I am sick, I can’t work and I have difficulties feeding my family,” she explained to UNFPA.
After her eighth child was born, Ms. Malu and her husband made the decision to start over in Angola. There, where her husband could mine for what they called that “rare stone” – diamonds. Resources were stretched thin with so many mouths to feed, and the dream of building a life as diamond hunters didn’t seem any more distant, perhaps even less so, than the prospect of providing for their children at home.
Still, life was hard. The family arrived in Angola without the proper documents – which is against the law. Those of her children who had gone to school in Luambo were no longer eligible to enrol. While her husband mined for diamonds on his own, also without proper permission, Ms. Malu ran a small business to support the family.
But diamonds were not the only elusive commodity – so was contraception, as much in her new country as in her home one.
About three years into their stay in Angola, Ms. Malu learned she was pregnant again. Shortly afterward, their family was arrested for entering the country illegally, and they were deported back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Deported from Angola
Deportation has grown increasingly common for Congolese people who migrate to Angola. In the first eight months of 2021, more than 800 people were reportedly deported from Angola at the Kalamba Mbuji border post alone. Many others, like Ms. Malu’s family, were deported from Kamako in Angola, to the Congolese Kasai Province. As of last September, border authorities had concluded that 3,000 people at this entry port were not eligible for refugee status and had to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ms. Malu’s family had to restart their lives, once again. They resettled in Luambo, largely without material or financial resources. Relatives were able to give them a house, a modest two-room building.
Soon after, at the Luambo Health Centre, Ms. Malu …….