Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern DRC
- The humanitarian situation in the Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo has deteriorated dramatically in the last months. In South Kivu, an estimated 538 880 people are currently displaced from their homes and 1 130 000 in North Kivu. The total number of IDPs in the country currently stands at 2.1 million.
- Since the beginning of 2009, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases recorded in South-Kivu have increased by 30% compared to 2008. In some territories such as Shabunda, 80% of the rape cases have been committed by FARDC military. Care and support to SGBV victims is of concern to humanitarian actors due to difficult access to areas affected by armed conflicts while they record the highest rates of SGBV.
- In North-Kivu, 322 000 people were displaced following the clash between the FARDC and armed groups. Meanwhile, some 212 000 IDPs have returned to their homes, in areas previously held by the CNDP in North Kivu.
- At the end of June 2009, an estimated 168 183 persons remained displaced in Ituri. an estimated total of 2 093 315 IDPs have been able to return to their villages of origin by the end of June 2009.
- In Northern Province Orientale, the terror spread by the LRA has led to population displacements in many locations of both districts of Bas-Uele and Ahut-Uele. As of 31 July, the total number of IDPs is estimated at almost 268 592 persons (226 084 persons in Haut-Uele and 42 508 in Bas-Uele). 27 488 persons have sought refuge in Southern Sudan
The crises caused massive displacements, with tens of thousands of men, women and children having to flee, often moving several times.
Due to volatile security conditions and the intensity of the fighting, access to the affected populations has been impossible or erratic at best in many zones.
Despite various constraints and limited access to some areas, humanitarian activities have continued and intensified for several months.
Mid-year review of the Humanitarian Action Plan 2009 and financial gaps.
- The Mid Year Review of the Plan of Action 2009 has highlighted a number of events that have affected the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and have preoccupied the humanitarian community.
- Due to the current situation the humanitarian needs remain large throughout the country, including the western provinces that are relatively stable. To address the needs identified in the 2009 Humanitarian Action Plan, the amount needed to cover humanitarian activities was estimated at 831 million dollars.
- In June 2009, the DRC has received more than USD 441 million from the government and private donors (including USD 75 millions routed through the Pooled Fund and the CERF). This amount represents 53% of total funding requirements estimated during the preparation of the HAP in 2009. In fact, the initial requirement was estimated at USD 831 millions.
- In view of the evolution of humanitarian needs identified during this midyear review, the sectors' budgets have been revised. The total financial need is USD 946 millions. The contributions represent 47% of this amount.
As the situation has grown worse following armed attacks and military operations, humanitarian actors in DRC appealed on 17 June for $38 million in life saving assistance.
II. PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN POPULATIONS IN EASTERN DRC
Protection of civilians
The reinforcement of the protection of civilian populations is a central objective of humanitarian action in the DRC. This objective must include not only activities responding to exactions committed against the civilian population but also the implementation of appropriate restitution mechanisms and the development of effective, national-level prevention systems. Particular attention is to be paid to the victims of violence and severe violations in armed conflict zones, to the victims of sexual violence, to persons at risk through mines and unexploded ordnance, to children at risk and to victims of severe rights violations.
Since the beginning of 2009, an increase in the violations and abuses was reported, particularly against displaced persons. Due to generalized insecurity and the degradation of the economic, health and social structures of the communities, the vulnerability of the populations has further increased.
Do No Harm
In Haut Uélé, several attacks occurred after a humanitarian distribution. This emerging tendency is of utmost concern and has prompted the humanitarian community to reflect upon the "Do no Harm" principle (Primum non nocere), which requires humanitarian agencies to strive to minimize the harm they may inadvertently be doing by being present and providing assistance. Humanitarian actors need to be aware if aid is used as an instrument of war, or if delivering goods could put the beneficiary population at risk of being attacked and looted.
Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
R2P relates to a state's responsibilities towards its population and to the international community's responsibility in case a state fails to fulfill its responsibilities. One important aim, among others, is to provide a legal and ethical basis for humanitarian intervention: the intervention by external actors (preferably the international community through the UN) in a state that is unwilling or unable to prevent or stop genocide, massive killings and other massive human rights violations.
Priority protection needs
Priority protection needs are mainly located in the eastern Provinces where armed groups carry out all manner of exactions against the populations in an overall climate of impunity.
- Intimidation, death threats, physical violence and summary executions. According to the "Living with Fear" study published in August 2008, 55% of those questioned claimed to have been interrogated and persecuted by armed groups, 46% had been beaten by these groups, and 46% threatened with death;
- According to this same study, 23% of people responding said they had witnessed an act of sexual violence, and 16% had been victims of such acts;
- Kidnappings, forced labour and exploitation, particularly of women and children. 34% of respondents had been kidnapped for at least a week;
- Illegal taxation and requisitions, pillaging; - Forceddisplacement.
All armed and arm-carrying groups, including the FARDC, were identified as responsible for these abuses and serious human rights violations.
Displacement and protection
Amid this context of generalised violence, the situation is especially worrying for the more than 1.6 million people, especially the women and children, who have left their homes. Faced with an extremely precarious situation, these people are particularly vulnerable to the abuse, especially in North Kivu and Province Orientale. The Guiding Principles for displaced persons inside their country are still largely unknown and/or not respected in the DRC.
- IDPs as well as local civilian populations are often trapped in violence, unable to move or receive assistance because of restricted humanitarian access. Freedom of movement of the population is gravely hampered.
- The recurrent fighting has also resulted in a phenomenon of re-displacement whereby IDPs are forcibly displaced several times.
- Civilians are often victims of indiscriminate violence in towns, IDP sites and remote villages. Armed actors often fail to distinguish between combatants and the civilian population with the employment of disproportionate military force such as destruction of houses and assets.
- Gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, is perpetrated by all involved armed groups against girls, women and men, having an enormous physical and psychological impact, instilling humiliation and frequently leading to family or community rejection of women already exposed to abuses and deprivation. Perpetrators are rarely held to account.
- Children are among the most vulnerable. Separations and gender-based violence affect children from displaced and other impacted communities. Spontaneous settlements are crowded and chaotic environments without basic social services, leading to a breakdown in protective mechanisms for children. Children are more vulnerable to sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, recruitment into armed groups, abduction, social exclusion and emotional distress.
- Forced recruitment of children, youth and adults has alarmingly increased, especially in Oriental Province (LRA).
- Communities in areas under the control of militia groups are forced to support the group's war efforts, through forced taxation and labour and by volunteering their children and youth to become part of the group. Reprisal attacks have taken place.
- The rising violence and pressure on civilians has forced them to change their behaviour in order to reduce their vulnerability and exposure to threats. In order to mitigate risks, they change their regular movements. 'Night commuting' to avoid night-time attacks is now common in many locations.
- In the majority of IDP sites, the extensive presence of armed elements inside and around the sites continues to put IDPs at risk. Not only does this presence of armed elements defy the civilian character of IDP sites, it exposes the IDPs to severe exactions including harassment, rape and looting.
Objectives and actions
- Prevent and/or stop the abuse. Violations of human rights are not inevitable. More must be done to avoid or limit the exposure of vulnerable people and communities to risks. A sustained effort is necessary in terms of sensitization/training (civilian and military Congolese authorities, civil society, and armed groups), advocacy, and integrated activities (involvement of humanitarian assistance in the protection objective). This applies particularly to forced displacements, sexual violence and abuse and violence towards women and children;
- Repair the consequences of the abuse and restore the victim's dignity and rights. Referral mechanisms must be effective, available to victims (medical, psychological and legal) and known by them, in particular for victims of sexual violence, as well as children who are victims of violence, family separation or forced recruitment;
- Promote a protective environment. One of the major obstacles to the reestablishment of rights and the respect of the basic individual rights in the DRC is the culture of impunity. Thus, the exactions and abuses of the basic rights of the most vulnerable by armed individuals or other civilians are a continuing and persistent practice.
- Inaccessibility of the most vulnerable populations in conflict zones, isolated zones, mining and border areas;
- Continuing presence of armed groups and armed individuals;
- The disrepute of humanitarian actors;
- The absence / low quality of services; the lack of capacity of the state services;
- The poverty of the populations;
- The deterioration of the community survival mechanisms following the economic, political and military crises.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.