UNHCR urges all sides in eastern Congo conflict to protect the displaced

News Stories, 21 November 2012

© UNHCR/G.Ramazani
Internally displaced people at Kanyaruchinya in North Kivu. The camp emptied during the fighting.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 21 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Wednesday urged warring rivals in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of people displaced by days of fighting and the rebel capture of the key city of Goma.

"It's clear we are in a situation of multiple displacement," said Stefano Severe, UNHCR's regional representative. He was referring to the tens of thousands of people who have fled for their lives since fighting erupted last Thursday in North Kivu province between government troops and the rebel M23 movement, which took Goma, the provincial capital, on Tuesday.

The total number of displaced is currently uncertain, but at least 60,000 people have fled the Kanyaruchinya camp for internally displaced people (IDP) north of Goma, with many people finding shelter in Mugunga III camp to the west of the provincial capital, where some 10,000 had arrived up to last Saturday.

Like other major humanitarian aid organizations helping IDPs from Goma offices, UNHCR moved non-essential staff to neighbouring Rwanda on Tuesday, leaving a core team in Goma. They said the situation was calm on Wednesday. These staff members were due to take part in a meeting later today in Goma with other aid agencies to discuss ways to help the displaced.

Amid unconfirmed reports of human rights abuses, UNHCR is very concerned about the security and general welfare of newly uprooted civilians as well as those already in the camps after being displaced in earlier waves of combat.

"We are calling on all armed parties engaged in the fighting to take effective measures to ensure the safety of civilians, facilitate their evacuation from combat zones and protect public buildings where they are sheltering," said Severe.

"UNHCR urges all parties to take steps to protect civilians and prevent indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on them," he added. Severe also urged that the IDP camps be protected and their civilian nature be respected.

The refugee agency is also concerned about violence and protests aimed at UN property since the fall of Goma, including damage to part of UNHCR's office in the north-eastern town of Bunia.

Meanwhile, the latest fighting in North Kivu has had little impact on neighbouring Uganda, where more than 53,000 refugees have registered since January while about 33,500 of them have been transferred to settlements. Others have returned home or are staying with host families.

In Rwanda, large numbers of Congolese crossed the border at Gisenyi, east of Goma, last week. But many are returning to North Kivu some 6,000 by latest count.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

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