Escalating violence sparks civilian casualties, fuels increasing humanitarian needs
In recent weeks there have been thousands of Congolese marching for peace in the country's capital, Kinshasa; East African leaders meeting in Uganda to discuss the escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as numerous humanitarian organisations who have sounded the alarm on the increased bloodshed, rape and displacements of people fleeing the conflict in the Kivus in Eastern DRC. All of this, a stark reminder of the ravages of a two-decade long war where civilians have borne the brunt of violent conflict.
DRC is one of the largest protracted crises in the world and has, of late, been the theatre for escalating regional violence with increasing humanitarian needs. The country is still affected by regular and fierce fighting in its Eastern part; forcing people to leave their homes. An estimated 2.2 million people are said to be displaced within Africa's second largest country; which is the size of Western Europe.
Since April 2012, the fighting in North Kivu has forced more than 270,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries like Uganda and Rwanda or find safe havens within DRC. These movements of population, along with the increase of the general insecurity created by the redeployment of military troops from the surrounding provinces to the North Kivu affect also other areas such as the South Kivu and the Oriental Provinces. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated considerably; with civilians reluctantly playing a centre stage role.
Earlier this year, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva expressed her serious concerns in a statement: "What is happening today, particularly in North Kivu, must come to an end. Populations are being taken hostage and are paying a heavy price because of the fighting." Adding, "Innocent people are being killed, raped and forced to flee their homes. The humanitarian community has reached the absolute limit of its ability to respond to the needs of the people."
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has contributed EUR 63 million in 2012 to assist populations affected by conflict in the DRC in providing shelter, water, food, sanitation facilities and medical services. Where it is possible for the IDPs to return to their homes, the European Commission is providing the minimum conditions for the rebuilding of people's lives and the improvement of basic social services for vulnerable returnees. The European Commission is also funding protection activities, such as treatment and counselling for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, to respond to the needs of those who have suffered directly and indirectly from displacement and violence.