With close to 100,000 people uprooted from their homes by the recent wave of violence in the province of North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN humanitarian agency today renewed its call for better measures to protect civilians and more aid for distressed families.
“The chaotic situation families are facing is disastrous – many of them have been displaced many times before. We call on all parties to the conflict to respect human rights and international law and to spare civilians from the violence,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for DRC, Fidele Sarassoro, said in a news release.
“It is essential that this crisis be resolved quickly because families need peace and protection. UN agencies and NGOs are ready to help, but we urgently need unimpeded access to the people,” he added.
Since the beginning of April, thousands of families in the volatile province have fled violence stemming from desertions from the national army as well as ongoing military operations to bring under control illegal armed groups, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It is estimated that some 74,000 people are now displaced in the Masisi, Lubero and Rutshuru territories, and several thousand more have found refuge in and around Goma, the provincial capital. More than two million people are believed to be currently displaced in the DRC.
In addition, the crisis in North Kivu has spilled over into neighboring the province of South Kivu where some 33,000 people have fled in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that close to 21,000 have crossed into neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda. The displaced people face many pressing needs: how to feed their children; where to find enough clean water; how to avoid contagious diseases such as cholera and measles.
Since the beginning of the North Kivu crisis, much of the humanitarian assistance provided has been delivered to the more easily accessible internally displaced persons in camps around Goma and to refugees living in Rwanda and Uganda, OCHA said.
The agency noted that these refugees are only the most visible victims of the current conflict, while thousands have sought refuge in remote and difficult-to-reach areas, such as forests, and have not yet received aid.
“There is no shortage of capacity, the issue for us is access and money so that we can roll out more aid,” Mr. Sarassoro said.
Earlier this year, the United Nations and partners appealed for $718 million to respond to humanitarian needs in DRC in 2012 – however, aid organizations estimate that current funding levels will not allow a sustained response if the crisis persists.
In the wake of the latest outbreak of violence in North Kivu, peacekeepers serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) have stepped up civilian protection measures in the area, which is also the location of a mutiny by national army troops last month, instigated by a former rebel leader.
MONUSCO forces have so far not been engaged in any frontline offensive action. The Mission is staying in close contact with the DRC national army and authorities, as well as taking coordinated measures to help protect locations.