A team from the UN refugee agency visited the two settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs) at Kibati, 10 kilometres north of Goma, on Tuesday morning. They reported that the condition of the estimated 30,000 new arrivals from areas north of Kibati was "difficult."
They include 20,000 previously displaced people from Kibumba camp, 30 kms north of Goma. The new arrivals joined a population of some 15,000 IDPs who had moved to Kibati earlier. The UNHCR team will assess needs and try to prepare an adequate humanitarian response.
"Many more could be on the way from areas further north that have been affected by the fighting in recent days," a UNHCR spokesman said. Fighting was also reported close to Rutshuru, 100 kms north of Goma and the location of a UNHCR office.
"It's a very serious situation," said UNHCR Chief Spokesman Ron Redmond. "We want to make sure that everything is prepared in these camps close to Goma to receive these people. I'm sure there are going to be a lot of medical situations, there are going to be severely traumatized people, they are going to need food and clean water and other support immediately. So that's why our team is out there today despite the security concerns."
The security situation in Kibati and in Goma was said to be calm but tense.
UNHCR staff in Goma, where the agency has an important office, reported that there were few people on the streets while shops, banks and schools were closed for the day. On Monday, frightened local residents had staged demonstrations which reportedly left some people dead.
Fighting in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006. By January 2008, it had brought the total number of IDPs in the region to more than 800,000. There are 16 UNHCR-assisted sites in North Kivu sheltering some 100,000 people. Tens of thousands of civilians have found shelter in more than 40 makeshift sites across the province.
Aid agencies estimate the total number of IDPs in the province as close to 1 million. "The numbers of internally displaced are already huge and it looks like it is going to grow," said UNHCR's Redmond.