A Sydney mother who was trapped in an African city dubbed the ‘rape capital of the world’ has opened up on her nightmare – and why she flew there during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Melissa Inkster, 44, returned to Sydney on Wednesday night, almost six months after she arrived to the Democratic Republic of Congo for what was meant to be a two-week humanitarian trip.
She was stranded there after the country closed its borders due the pandemic, unable to get back to her two young children at home on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Ms Inkster drained her entire life savings, suffered a miscarriage, was robbed and threatened at knifepoint during the six-month ordeal in the world’s fourth dangerous country.
Melissa Inkster (pictured) is glad to be back in Sydney after almost six months in Congo
The nightmare began when the DRC shut its borders eight days after Ms Inkster arrived.
‘It was meant to be a two-week humanitarian trip, we didn’t expect or had any idea we would be there for so long,’ Ms Inkster told Daily Mail Australia from her quarantine hotel in Sydney.
‘There were no coronavirus cases over there but they closed the borders anyway as the healthcare facilities are inadequate.’
While the Congo has had 10,114 cases and 259 deaths, Ms Inkster said no cases were recorded in the region of Kisangani, where they were based.
Melissa Inkster and fiancee Joe Bagala (pictured doing humantrian work in Congo) founded One World Mission
Ms Inkster is grateful for the support she’s received from the public but is shocked at the social media backlash, with some criticising her for going to the Congo in the first place.
‘I think I just rise above that they have no idea what we have been through. And I just feel it’s Australian mentality to try and people bring people down,’ she said.
Relieved to be finally back in Australia, Ms Inkster was dealt another cruel blow when her landlord threatened to evict from her Curl Curl home on Thursday.
‘I’m screwed. I’ve never been in a worse situation in my life before,’ Ms Inkster told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I’ve given six days to pay up or they will serve me with an eviction notice. I’m trying to get hold of my early release super, which I couldn’t do from overseas.
‘I also need to apply for JobKeeper and get a job.’
Melissa Inkster (pictured on her way home) is now in quarantine in a Sydney hotel
Melissa Inkster (pictured)
She’s also desperately trying to scrape together funds to bring home fiance, Joseph Bagala, who is still stranded in the Congo.
‘I am worried about not being with Joe,’ Ms Inkster said.
‘He’s there on his own now where as for the last six months, we had each other. The Congo is not a safe place to be on your own.’
She flew to the Congo to help her fiance set up charity One World United, which aims to improve facilities in the impoverished Tshopo province in the country’s east.
Mr Bagala, who works in the construction industry, was appointed as the chief of the village they have worked to lift out of poverty.
Projects include repairing bridges and building new schools and hospitals.
‘We’re trying to do good work over there,’ Ms Inkster said.
‘We have cleared roads in the forest, helped with rehabilitation of schools and clinics, the bridge at lobeye in Opala, food donations, medicines for clinics, clothes donations, assisted with the local orphanage with food donations and completed agriculture projects.’
Melissa Inkster, 44, was stuck in the Democratic Republic of Congo for six months, unable to get a flight home to her two children
Ms Inkster flew to the capital Kinshasa in early August after the DRC’s government lifted international border restrictions.
The week prior to her leaving the regional city of Kisangani, she fainted and suffered a miscarriage.
‘I had a dodgy curette producedure. I fainted in the street a week later and was rushed to hospital, where they discovered I had suffered an infection from the procedure,’ Ms Inkster said.
‘It was a priority to get out of there.’
She was also robbed of her purse as she went shopping and was then confronted by a man with a knife when she got home.
The man pulled a large blade on them and had attempted to corner Ms Inkster before her fiance jumped in front of her to scare the attacker away.
Ms Inkster pictured with her children Tomas, nine, and Max, six, who are currently living her ex-husband who’s their father. She misses not being able to hug her children
Ms Inkster was ‘dumbfounded’ why the Australian government were leaving her to languish in a country as dangerous as the DRC – which is ranked 179th in the world in the Human Development Index.
The Department of Foreign Affairs finally provided assistance after her plight made headlines in the media.
After several unsuccessful attempts to get on a plane, Ms Inkster finally boarded the first of four flights home at Kinshasa International Airport on Sunday after friends and family helped raised the $15,000 business class airfare to get her back to Australia.
‘OMG I AM HOME,’ she posted on Facebook shortly after touching down.
Ms Inkster uploaded a video filmed on the flight home, where she emotionally thanked her friends, family and the Australian public for their support and help in getting her home.
‘The good thing is I can’t wait to see my kids Max and Tomas and just hug them,’ she says in the video.
‘I just don’t know when I’ll let them go. I think they’re going to fight me on that one.
‘I love you all, thank you so much. I still can’t believe this is happening.’
But it will be another two weeks before she’s reunited with her sons as she undergoes mandatory hotel quarantine.
Ms Inkster has spoken to her sons on Skype almost every day since March but hasn’t into detail about her situation.
Ms Inkster and her partner Joseph travelled to Africa via Europe in March for business. They have together set up a charity to help impoverished people in the DRC’s capital
Ms Inkster and her partner are stranded in different parts of the DRC because they did not have the money to get him home too
‘I just want to hug my kids and not let them out of my sight. I want to hear their storied and what they’ve been up too,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Unlike many returned travellers, Ms Inkster has no complaints about hotel quarantine so far and is enjoying the view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from her room.
She described the majority of the Congolese as beautiful people.
‘They are really struggling and need our help,’ she said.
‘They beautiful people but but don’t mind taking a buck here or there.’
‘We’re so lucky here in Australia. we have JobKeeper and superannuation. The Congolese don’t get that support, which is why there’s so much theft.
‘I should write a book about what has happened, we were here to do good for a few weeks and now we’re stuck here,’ Ms Inkster said
She has no plans to return to Congo anytime soon.
‘I have learned to be adaptable, having survived almost six months there,’ she said.
‘We want to keep the foundation alive there so Joe will be doing that with a few other people but I certainly won’t be going back.
‘Being in that country was too much for me.
‘I can’t rule out never returning but I won’t be going back there in a hurry.’
Her partner works in the construction industry and was appointed as the chief of the village they have helped lift out of poverty