Humanitarian Coordinator Visits Eastern DRC as Humanitarian Crisis Deepens

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 14 May 2012

(Kinshasa, 14 May 2012): Humanitarian Coordinator Fidèle Sarassoro completed on 11 May a 5-day visit to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which is facing a deepening humanitarian crisis as renewed fighting has pushed thousands of people from their homes and stretched the capacities of the humanitarian community to provide basic life-saving support.

The number of internally displaced people (IDP) in DRC has now reached more than two million as of 31 March. Up from 1.7 million IDPs at the end of 2011, the movement of people fleeing for safety and support has occurred mostly in the two eastern provinces of South and North Kivu: it is linked to recent military operations against armed groups in these provinces, retaliation attacks on civilians by armed groups, and human rights violations against civilians by all parties to the conflict. Amidst rising insecurity and widespread needs in terms of food, shelter and non-food items, water, sanitation, and health, the humanitarian community is struggling to meet the new challenges of the latest crisis. “We are confronted with an increasingly complex and worrisome situation where several thousand people are forced to flee their homes to hide in the forest or find shelter in camps or in host families. Unfortunately, due to insecurity, aid workers find it more and more difficult to reach the IDPs. I call upon all parties to allow unlimited access to humanitarians, so that the basic needs of vulnerable civilians can be addressed” said Humanitarian Coordinator Fidèle Sarassoro.

The province of South Kivu has recorded the highest increase - 35 percent - from 635,000 to over 856,000 IDPs from January to March 2012, while another 70,000 IDPs have fled to the neighboring Maniema province. In North Kivu, over 547,000 were displaced as of 31 March, while more than 6000 people have fled into Rwanda. In North Kivu, aid agencies told the Humanitarian Coordinator that they feared the figure could rise further given the current volatile situation in the province.

In Province Orientale, 466,000 people remain displaced, of whom almost 350,000 due mostly to Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacks, and fear of attacks, in the Uele Districts. While grateful for the assistance received allowing them to survive, many IDPs expect to remain displaced as long as the LRA threat persists, according to leaders who spoke to Sarassoro at a community meeting on May 10. In Dungu, IDPs told the Humanitarian Coordinator they would like to see a more visible presence of national and international security forces to protect them against the LRA. They also called for self-reliance projects, particularly for food security, to enable them to sustain themselves without hand-outs over the medium term.

Over the past few months, the Rapid Response to Movement of Populations (RRMP) programme, run by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and OCHA through international NGO partners on the ground, has multiplied its interventions in the two Kivus to provide critical non-food items, emergency shelter assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as emergency education aid. UNHCR and WFP – through their NGO partners – have also provided short-term assistance to the IDPs with activities for protection, shelter and food. However it is feared that in view of the current volatile situation and likely further increases in the number of IDPs, more resources will be required to provide the needed assistance.

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