Although the situation in the Kivus has been relatively stable for the past few days, crime, mob justice and inter-community tension in certain areas are creating a climate of worry and fear. Thousands of residents and displaced people everywhere are living in dire conditions.
"The situation in which civilians in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo find themselves, which includes in particular their immediate need for security, must not be forgotten during the current talks," said Franz Rauchenstein, who heads the ICRC's delegation in the country. "These people, already hard hit by years of conflict and other violence, now face mounting uncertainty. They are entitled to respect and protection."
"We consider it urgent that we continue to visit people detained in connection with the conflicts in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, that people injured in the fighting be withdrawn to safety and receive care, that displaced people and others in great need receive help, and that family members of unaccompanied children be found," said Mr Rauchenstein.
Staff from the ICRC and volunteers from the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are currently in Sake, a town west of Goma, and also in Masisi-centre (North Kivu province) and in Minova (South Kivu). They are stepping up efforts to provide emergency food aid for nearly 90,000 people in all, and such essential items as kitchen utensils, clothing, blankets and tarpaulins for some of them. With the rainy season in full swing, it will not be easy to distribute large quantities of goods.
"This is the second time we have been displaced," said Kahindo, a 16-year-old girl at a distribution of aid to more than 45,000 people organized on a school football pitch in Kimoka, a part of Sake. "The first time, we fled with our parents, but this time we were surprised by the fighting. Our parents had gone to the fields, where they were killed, and I ran away with my little brothers."
ICRC delegates are on the ground talking to people who suffered violence over the past few weeks in order to be able to bring them aid. The delegates' work also consists in collecting information on cases where people have been victims of violations of international humanitarian law. The ICRC shares its findings, here as elsewhere, exclusively and confidentially with the armed forces or groups concerned. Its ultimate aim is to persuade weapon bearers to change their behaviour towards civilians and others not taking part in hostilities.
Since 19 November, the ICRC has also:
pressed ahead with efforts aimed at visiting persons arrested during the capture of Goma and still being held;
performed operations at N'Dosho and Katindo hospitals in Goma on more than 130 people injured in the fighting;
continued to provide supplies and financial support for hospital facilities in Bukavu to make it easier to provide care in South Kivu for casualties of the fighting;
built latrines and showers, and restored to working order a water tank and water pipes in the Minova, Saïo and Nyamunyunyi camps housing displaced people in Bukavu;
provided support for the activities of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly for administering first aid to casualties and taking them to hospital;
registered more than 350 children in Goma and Bukavu, and, working together with the Congolese Red Cross, reunited over 100 of them with their families.