Escalation of violence in DRC’s Kivu provinces threatens thousands of civilians and impedes humanitarian response
(Bukavu/Goma/Kinshasa, 20 November 2012): Tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) in North Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), have been forced into new displacement after violent confrontations erupted on 15 November between the national army and the M23 armed group, around the provincial capital Goma.
The neighbouring South Kivu province is also affected by the deteriorating security situation, which threatens thousands of civilians and has led to the suspension or reduction of humanitarian activities in the area. As a consequence, thousands of vulnerable people are not receiving the humanitarian assistance they urgently need.
In North Kivu, the Kanyaruchinya camp, some 10 km from Goma, was emptied of its population of 60,000 people within a few hours. More than 20,000 other residents have also fled the surrounding area. The continued fighting around Goma significantly impedes the humanitarian response.
South Kivu has been severely affected by repeated clashes between various armed groups and between armed groups and the Congolese army since mid-October. Several villages have been attacked over the last few weeks, triggering the flight of more than 30,000 people, while more than 300 houses have been destroyed or burned in these attacks. The current violence, primarily in the Kalehe and Shabunda territories, have reportedly killed more than 160 people in the past 10 days and led to serious human rights violations. Inter-communal tensions have compounded the situation.
“I am deeply worried about the situation in the Kivus as they are in the midst of a serious protection crisis affecting thousands of innocent victims. Thousands of families are again in a situation of profound distress. A large number has received help from host families, while thousands more depend on international aid. If nothing is done to stop the current escalation of violence and provide the necessary assistance, thousands of people will be in serious danger,” said today Barbara Shenstone, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in DRC.
In North Kivu, assessment missions scheduled for 19 November were cancelled following renewed fighting around Goma. The clashes also delayed the delivery of assistance to people who have taken refuge in sites specially designated to respond to the current crisis. In South Kivu, humanitarian workers also face insecurity when delivering aid to thousands of conflict-affected people. Since the beginning of the year, aid workers have been targeted in nearly 170 security incidents in the two provinces. The humanitarian community calls for unhindered access to people in need and urge the Congolese authorities to engage more effectively in the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.
The North and South Kivu provinces combined host over 1.6 million – or 67 per cent – of the total number of IDPs in DRC. More than 2.4 people are displaced in the country. Between July and September this year, 285,000 have been newly displaced. In response to the deteriorating situation, the humanitarian community has issued appeals for additional funding: US$9 million for North Kivu and $4.6 million for South Kivu to provide urgent relief to more than 2.9 million displaced people and host families. The current deterioration of the situation may further deepen the financial deficit which humanitarians are already struggling to overcome.
“This deterioration is untenable both for the Congolese people and for the humanitarian community. Without an immediate stop in the violence, thousands of civilians will suffer the consequences” said Ms. Shenstone, adding, “The violence must stop so that lives can be protected and that we can start helping those affected. Aid organizations remain in and around Goma to provide that protection, but they still need free and unimpeded access to people in need.”
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