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Mum stranded in country branded ‘world rape capital’ by UN due to Covid lockdown

A charity worker has been left begging for the mercy of strangers to help her get home to Australia after being left broke following robberies and being stranded in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the coronavirus pandemic.

Melissa Inkster has been unable to return home to see her young sons for six months after a humanitarian trip to the African country resulted in her being stranded there due to the global health crisis and Australia’s strict flight policy in its approach to combating the virus.

She has been stranded in the DRC capital Kinshasa along with her boyfriend, Joseph Bagala, who is also on the continent due to being stranded after setting out to complete charity work.

Ticket prices for flights have soared between the DRC and Australia – while flights are regularly cancelled, or waiting lists for the limited number of seats stretch on for months.

Melissa found herself locked in the DRC – branded the world rape capital by a senior UN official – when they closed their borders the day after she arrived on 24 March.

While Australia’s strict returns policy has hindered her attempts to get home.

When she attempted to return on a flight on Saturday when the DRC finally reopened their borders, she was one of 50 passengers bumped off the flight, News.com.au reports.

Future flights are booked out, while four other flights she did succeed on gaining a ticket for were cancelled or had their routes redirected.

The mum-of-two says the only way she can guarantee a seat is to book a $15,000 AUD (£8,220) for a first-class seat to meet with Australian government rules.

But six months locked out of her home country has seen the aid worker burn through her life savings as she has been forced to pay for hotel accommodation, while she has also been robbed at knifepoint in the troubled African country.

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A GoFundMe page set up in Ms Inkster’s honour to try and raise funds for her travel costs has given details of her predicament.

It states: "She is stuck in Kisangani in Africa alone which is also incredibly dangerous.

"Mel has two young boys in Australia who she is desperate to get back too. They need her and she needs them."

After the fundraising page began to draw attention, Melissa said in a Facebook update: "Third world countries aren’t the safest place to have medical treatment. People think because it’s a third world country that it is cheap. It is not.

"Corruption is rife, crime is high, the population is desperate.

"One-and-a-half weeks ago I was chased with a knife and robbed. My life was saved by Joe from the attack. I was moments always from being stabbed.

"This place is incredibly scary."

Fortunately, well-wishers and strangers have managed to raise the funds necessary by Saturday – with some donating as much as $500 AUD (£275).

In 2010, a senior UN official branded the DRC the "rape capital of the world".

Margot Wallström, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict said at the time: "Women have no rights if those who violate their rights go unpunished."

The country is still notorious for widespread sexual violence as civil conflict continues to tear the nation apart.

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