DRC: Thousands reported newly displaced in North Kivu

Briefing Notes, 23 November 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 23 November 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With recent fighting in and around Goma, UNHCR is extremely concerned about the situation of displaced people in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Normally, UNHCR oversees 31 displaced camps in North Kivu, hosting 108,000 people. But the fighting has meant that we and our partners have not been able to access most of these. Only Mugunga III, just to the west of the provincial capital Goma, can be currently visited.

The stepped-up fighting between government forces and rebel M23 fighters that is being reported from the town of Sake, 20 kilometres west of Goma, is causing thousands of civilians to flee the area. Our protection monitors are reporting many incidents of violence affecting civilians.

In Goma, more than 60 incidents of assault on civilians have been reported by our partners. They say eight people have been killed, and houses and shops have been looted.

According to office of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, 16 children were injured by gunfire during the fighting between the M23 and DR Congolese armed forces. Another 500 unaccompanied minors, who were receiving assistance in Goma before the city's takeover on Tuesday by the M23, are now newly displaced or refugees in Rwanda.

UNHCR once again appeals to all parties to the conflict to avoid actions that place civilians in harm's way.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are more than 1.6 million internally displaced people in North and South Kivu, including 285,000 newly displaced between July and September.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kinshasa: Simplice Kpandji on mobile +243 81 833 1322
  • In Geneva: Leo Dobbs on mobile: +41 79 883 6347
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile: +41 79 249 3483
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Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province have long referred to the region between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto as the "triangle of death." Despite the presence of UN peace-keepers and government military successes in other parts of the country, the situation in the resources-rich Katanga has been getting worse over the past two years. Conflict between a secessionist militia group and the government and between the Luba (Bantu) and Twa (Pygmy) ethnic groups has left thousands dead and forcibly displaced more than 400,000 people since 2012, including over 70,000 in the last three months. UNHCR has expressed its "deep concern" about the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in northern Katanga. The violence includes widescale looting and burning of entire villages and human rights' violations such as murder, mass rape and other sexual violence, and the forced military recruitment of children.

The limited presence of humanitarian and development organizations is a serious problem, leading to insufficient assistance to displaced people who struggle to have access to basic services. There are 28 sites hosting the displaced in northern Katanga and many more displaced people live in host communities. While UNHCR has built some 1,500 emergency shelters since January, more is needed, including access to health care, potable water, food and education. The following striking photographs by Brian Sokol for UNHCR show some of the despair and suffering.

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

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