Geneva — With the end of fighting between the armed forces and M23 in Rutshuru, displaced people are returning home. The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are carrying on with their humanitarian work in the east of the country.
"Recent events in Rutshuru should not cause us to overlook the fact that the humanitarian and security situation remains difficult in other territories in the east of the country," said Alessandra Ménegon, head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "The people there are still facing serious problems arising from violence and the lack of health care, clean water and food."
In Rutshuru, groups of displaced people have been returning to their home villages since fighting ended. Several hundred members of M23 have turned themselves in or been captured. "We are visiting former fighters and civilians arrested in connection with the recent fighting, and the places where they are gathered or detained," said Rachel Bernhard, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Goma.
The aim of the ICRC's visits is to assess the conditions in which people are being held and to ensure that they are being treated humanely and with dignity, in accordance with applicable rules and standards.
Unexploded munitions a danger for the population
"People are trying to get back to living normal lives, so they're going to be working in the fields, but it's very risky because of the explosive hazards that remain," said Ms Bernhard.
To help prevent accidents involving explosive devices, radio messages warning of the danger are being broadcast by the Congolese Red Cross and the ICRC.
The recent improvement in security conditions made it possible to reunite almost 40 children who had been living in shelters in Goma with their families in mid-November. "My granddaughter is coming home today," said Augustine. "I was afraid I would never see her again." Since the beginning of October, 125 children have been returned to their families through the joint efforts of the ICRC and the Congolese Red Cross.
Improved health-care facilities in South Kivu
In territories other than Rutshuru in the east of the country, fighting involving many armed groups is causing great suffering for civilians. In South Kivu, an ICRC surgical team has performed 44 operations on war-wounded patients in the provincial referral hospital of Bukavu since the beginning of October.
"We're upgrading the infrastructure in this hospital, and building a new health-care centre in Ramba, in Kalehe territory," said Catherine de Patoul, in charge of ICRC medical programmes in North and South Kivu. A gynaecology unit is being fitted out in Walungu hospital. Medicines are being distributed and training provided in four rural hospitals and three health-care centres. In addition, support is being maintained for 40 counselling centres ("maisons d'écoute") in the Kivus that accommodate victims of sexual assault and other violence-related trauma.
Following violent clashes between armed groups over the past few weeks, kitchen utensils, tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats and baskets have been distributed to some 35,000 people displaced from the south of Masisi who are now in the highlands of Kalehe and Ziralo in South Kivu.
In north-central Katanga province, a distribution of basic necessities has been slowed because of the security situation. Nevertheless, 1,900 people currently displaced in the villages of Paza and Kalwala, in Manono territory, received tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, soap, hoes, plastic drums and hygiene products.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the beginning of October the ICRC has also:
-continued to visit people held in civilian and military places of detention in connection with armed conflict, distributing food in five prisons and medicines in 19 prison clinics;
-continued working to improve the water distribution network of the city of Goma, in particular by opening two new pumping stations that will ultimately provide the city's 500,000 inhabitants with clean drinking water;
-continued water catchment and supply programmes for more than 85,000 people living in rural areas in the territories of Walikale, Masisi and Rushuru, in North Kivu province;
-continued fish farm projects in North and South Kivu for almost 4,000 people, and agricultural projects involving the distribution of healthy cassava cuttings, soybean, maize and beans with the aim of promoting the economic recovery of people displaced by conflict or returning home;
-reunited 125 children with their families by working together with the Congolese Red Cross in Equator, Western and Eastern Kasai, Katanga, North and South Kivu and Eastern provinces.
SOURCE International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)