2 July 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Civilians Caught in Conflict in East of Country

press release

Since the beginning of May, the security situation in the Kivus has been deteriorating on many fronts. In Rutshuru territory, in eastern North Kivu, local people have massively fled the fighting.

They have sometimes had to leave behind those least able to withstand the journey. In the territories of Walungu, Shabunda, Kalehe, Walikale and Masisi, where armed groups are also confronting each other, indiscriminate attacks against civilians in hard-to-reach areas are delaying the arrival of help.

"The people who are forced to flee sometimes extremely violent attacks are in a very worrying situation. Children, elderly people and women are the hardest hit," said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Recently, a woman was brought to hospital after being raped in front of her child. In addition to being raped by several armed men, she was stabbed and mutilated. That story is unfortunately not unique. You can imagine the trauma inflicted on victims."

The ICRC is deeply concerned about the fighting, which does not spare civilians despite their not being involved in the conflict. The organization is continuing to contact the various parties involved with the aim of promoting respect for the lives and dignity of civilians.

In addition, the ICRC continues to visit prisoners in civilian and military places of detention in both Kivus in order to ensure that they are being treated humanely and held in decent conditions. It individually monitors persons detained in connection with the conflict by the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or by armed groups.

Areas cut off by lack of security and remoteness

Remote mountainous or forested regions are the scene of recurring armed violence. It is very difficult for humanitarian organizations, including the ICRC, to reach these areas. The accounts given by displaced people who manage to reach urban centres are extremely disturbing.

"The trauma connected with a hasty departure - over and above the lack of food and other essentials - should not be underestimated," said Mr Rauchenstein. "The fear of falling victim to violence or, for those who survive, of being attacked again, is very stressful."

Since the beginning of June, the ICRC has entered cut-off areas on several occasions to bring in medicines, wound-dressing materials and mosquito nets, to evacuate injured people and to vaccinate over 1,700 children under five years of age against measles, polio and yellow fever. Food and tarpaulins intended for use by people during their displacement have been or are still being distributed. In Kalonge, in the Kalehe territory of South Kivu, the ICRC is currently distributing food for 20,000 people in allotments of 60 kilograms per family.

Training for armed groups

Since the beginning of June, the ICRC has provided first-aid training in partnership with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 75 members of armed groups operating in the two Kivu provinces. Awareness of humanitarian principles and of the basic rules of international humanitarian law was raised among a further 80 members.

Situation in Rutshuru territory

With the agreement of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and of the March 23 Movement, the ICRC has been carrying out humanitarian work in recent weeks in areas affected by fighting. A total of 28 civilians, including elderly people who had been unable to leave areas hit by shelling, were evacuated. The ICRC also evacuated 17 casualties (15 military personnel and two civilians) to the Rutshuru referral hospital. To restore the water supply for people in Bunagana, the ICRC carried out urgent repairs on one damaged water pipeline and upgraded another one that supplies the Rwanguba hospital.

In recent weeks, in the two Kivu provinces, the ICRC has also:

provided some 300 people newly wounded in the fighting, including around 100 civilians, with medical care in ICRC-supported facilities in Goma since the beginning of May, and evacuated from Bukavu and provided with care some 30 field casualties;

distributed food last week to some 7,500 displaced people in Loashi and Kaanja, in the Masisi territory of North Kivu; on 3 July it will begin to distribute household essentials to some 10,000 displaced people in Katoye, also in the Masisi territory, and will continue to register other displaced people in the area with a view to providing emergency aid; built latrines at sites for displaced people in Bunagana, Kalengera, Kinyoni, Rubare and Ntamugenga, in North Kivu.

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