The United Nations and its partners are appealing for $30.5 million to assist some 59,000 people who have been affected by the recent fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) eastern province of North Kivu.
"The North Kivu Response Plan is our answer to the loss and suffering endured by thousands of people these past months," said the Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in DRC, Barbara Shenstone. "We want to provide families with aid to cover their most basic immediate needs while looking ahead to restoring their livelihoods."
While clashes between the fighters from the 23 March Movement (M23) and the DRC's national army have diminished, North Kivu remains highly insecure due to the proliferation of weapons, sporadic fighting between armed groups and the army, and inter-community tensions, the agency said.
In addition, 500,000 people have been displaced since April due to M23-related activities, including some 150,000 people who fled their homes during heavy fighting in mid-November. Today, North Kivu - which is four times the size of Belgium - is home to some 914,000 IDPs, the largest concentration in the country.
The six-month plan, which was initiated last month, addresses humanitarian needs in and around the city of Goma and in the neighbouring territories of Masisi Centre and Kitchanga, which have been the most affected by the recent violence.
In a news release, OCHA said the first phase of the plan aims to provide emergency assistance in all camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) through blanket aid distributions, while promoting their return and the evacuation of public buildings. During the second phase, humanitarian agencies will provide aid to those who return to their homes so they can resume their lives, and, in the third stage, aid organizations will provide a more holistic assistance package to the displaced who decide to remain in the camps.
One of the most pressing concerns for aid organizations is to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure in IDP camps, as drinking water is scarce, which has contributed to outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases. Health partners are also looking to renovate clinics and replenish looted medicine stocks.
In the coming months, aid agencies are estimating that some 320,000 people will need agricultural assistance, and about 13,000 children will need specialized feeding to fight off malnutrition.
In addition, close to 300 schools will have to be renovated and an estimated 240,000 children will need, among other things, extra classes, school material, and psychosocial and recreational activities to help them overcome recent trauma.
The response plan also addresses the security and protection of civilians, a paramount priority for the aid community.
"While Goma remains calm but tense, new displacements are occurring every day elsewhere in North Kivu with thousands seeking safety in neighbouring South Kivu. Many, notably children, risk death, injury, recruitment into armed groups and abuse," said UNICEF's representative in the DRC, Barbara Beintein.
She added, "We urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and to respect international law so that humanitarian agencies can continue to reach and attend to those affected."
The six-month plan is part of an $892 million country-wide action plan that will be launched in a few weeks in the capital, Kinshasa.
Earlier this month, in the wake of an evaluation mission to assess the security situation in the Masisi territory, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) reported that there has been a significant increase in the number of IDPs in various camps. The peacekeeping operation pledged to step up its presence in Masisi with 'blue helmets' from its brigade in North Kivu.