Insecurity, Uncertainty and Suffering Continue for Civilians in North Kivu, Despite Military Operations to Oust Rebels
At least one million people have been forced from their homes in North Kivu as a result of spiraling violence that put this war-weary region on the map once again in late 2008.
A joint Rwandan-Congolese military operation continues in the region, aimed at routing enemy militias. The increased troop presence is yet another source of instability, fear and uncertainty for civilians.
"We constantly monitor the movement of fleeing civilians in North Kivu, in order to respond to their unfolding needs,” says Bob Kitchen, the International Rescue Committee’s country director in Congo. “While we are seeing tentative returns in some areas, we are also seeing new displacement due to ongoing rape, killings and looting.”
An IRC team in Rutshuru territory, the heart of this regional conflict, recently assessed needs in villages where homes and schools have been pillaged. As is the case throughout North Kivu, different armed groups have controlled the area at various points in the past four months. Sporadic eruptions of violence have spurred waves of displacement.
In the towns of Ishasha and Nyakakoma, the IRC recently registered and assisted more than 14,000 refugees who had returned from Uganda. Many found their homes looted and empty. The IRC provided each family with a kit containing a tarp, clothing, and pots and pans to help them re-establish basic shelters and meet family needs.
Kitchen says congestion is a serious problem at camps set up for the displaced people and in the homes where their relatives are hosting them. “One household assisted by the IRC had 11 people living in a three-meter-square room,” he said. He also noted that discussions with displaced villagers indicated high numbers of at-risk widows and orphans.
In addition to helping vulnerable people with essential supplies, the IRC’s emergency response team helps rebuild schools to accommodate large numbers of displaced students, and builds latrines, showers, and water sources in camps and overcrowded communities.
IRC first stepped up its emergency response in North Kivu in 2007. A sharp increase in violence in late 2008 captured the attention of the international community, but there has been no significant change in security for the region’s beleaguered population since then.
You can help today by contributing directly to our humanitarian programs for innocent civilians - including thousands of children - whose lives have been shattered by the violence.
UN must do more to protect Congo's civilians - IRC senior policy adviser Anna Husarska in The Guardian
Emily Meehan (Kinshasa) +243 819503768, emily.meehan@theIRC.org
Gina Bramucci (Kinshasa) +243 813679604, gina.bramucci@theIRC.org
Melissa Winkler (New York) +1 646 734 0305, melissa.winkler@theIRC.org