1 February 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Civilians Suffer Amid Shifting Centres of Violence

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Displaced families find shelter at an orphanage in eastern Congo (file photo).

press release

For tens of thousands of displaced and resident families in the eastern part of the country, January has been a constant struggle to find food, water and a semblance of security. The city of Goma and nearby parts of North Kivu have been relatively calm, violence has spread to other regions.

"In the Masisi area of North Kivu, where clashes have recently taken place between the armed forces and armed groups, or in Katanga where violence continues, many people have had to flee out of fear for their safety," said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Civilians have also suffered violence, looting and extortion."

Operations on over 100 casualties

An ICRC surgical team is continuing its work in Goma's N'Dosho Hospital, with over a hundred casualties undergoing surgery in January. The hospital also provides psychological support, especially for children. Many of the injured children are traumatized by the violence they have experienced. One nine-year-old boy arrived at the hospital in shock after witnessing the deaths of his little sister and other members of his family. He had to have a leg and a foot amputated.

Visits to detainees

The ICRC has continued visiting places of detention, including Goma's central prison. In Bunia central prison, the organization has repaired the latrines, installed two water points and constructed a shelter, to give the inmates of this overcrowded facility more space.

Aid to displaced people and medical evacuations in South Kivu

In the Masisi area, more than 23,500 people displaced over the last three months of 2012 by inter-community clashes received emergency food aid and tarpaulins at the end of December. They also received cooking pots, buckets, sleeping mats and other items in January.

"Violence between armed groups is now on the rise again in South Kivu," said Laetitia Courtois, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in the province. "The fighting is getting closer and closer to the city of Bukavu. At the same time, clashes are affecting remote areas, such as the Kalehe territory to the north of Bukavu, and the Walungu and Shabunda territories to the south-west."

During January, the ICRC transferred a dozen people wounded in the fighting from Walungu to hospitals in Bukavu. In addition, the ICRC moved six severely malnourished children to Bukavu from the Kabare territory, where access is extremely difficult.

Over 5,500 people in the Ninja territory north-west of Bukavu received vegetable seed and sweet-potato cuttings. They will be able to grow these throughout the year, on small plots of land, and the first crops will be ready three months after sowing. The ICRC has also repaired fish ponds in the area and distributed tilapia fingerlings to 60 families.

In North and South Kivu provinces, the relative calm in certain areas has enabled the ICRC to resume its support for health centres and for centres that are helping rape victims. An extremely volatile security situation and the urgent need to treat casualties had interrupted these activities in November and December.

Aid for displaced people in Katanga Province

Increased violence in Katanga has been forcing people to flee and the situation there is deteriorating. The ICRC is monitoring developments closely.

In the town of Bunkeya, in the Kolwezi district to the north of Likasi, the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo distributed ICRC-provided emergency supplies to over 850 people who had fled the fighting further north, in the Mitwaba territory, before they again had to flee because of clashes in Bunkeya.

Other activities

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has also:

reunited with their families 40 per cent of the children separated from them by clashes in and around Goma at the end of 2012, with the help of Congolese Red Cross volunteers;

finished the first phase of a project to renovate nine tapstands and replace a section of damaged pipe linking the intake point and the water reservoir operated by Regideso (the water board) in the city of Walikale, which serves an estimated 60,000 people;

provided first-aid training for stretcher-bearers of the Congolese armed forces stationed in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu; organized information sessions on international humanitarian law, including one at the University of Kananga in Western Kasai for students of international law, and another in Dungu, Orientale Province, for officers from the Moroccan contingent of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

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