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UNHCR concerned about situation of displaced in North Kivu

News Stories, 23 November 2012

© UNHCR/F.Noy
These children in Mugunga III seem cheerful, but the situation in the camp is alarming.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 23 (UNHCR) With continuing fighting in North Kivu on Friday, UNHCR said it was extremely concerned about the situation of displaced Congolese civilians in the province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Normally, UNHCR oversees 31 displaced camps hosting 108,000 people in the eastern Congo province. "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," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

"There is an urgent need to provide food and medical assistance," Kouassi Lazare Etien, the head of UNHCR's office in Goma, said on Friday. He was able to visit Mugunga III on Thursday for the first time since the rebel M23 movement captured the city from government forces on Tuesday.

Etien said there were some 40,000 internally displaced people in Mugunga III and they had not received assistance for three or four days. But a large number had arrived from Rutshuru territory to the north of Goma and many of these had on Thursday started walking home as the area was now reported to be free of fighting.

The insecurity had prevented humanitarian organizations from resuming full assistance, but Etien said a head count was being conducted by local partners in Mugunga III on Friday to help gauge the numbers and determine the most vulnerable. UNHCR is also concerned about the situation of refugees in Goma.

The UNHCR official said Goma airport was still closed on Friday but the border crossing with Rwanda at Gisenyi was open and the road free.

But the UN refugee agency and other organizations are also worried about the fierce fighting around the town of Sake, 20 kilometres to the west of Goma, where government troops and militia appear to have put up stiff resistance to the M23 advance.

Edwards said the stepped up fighting "is causing thousands of civilians to flee the area. Our protection monitors are reporting many incidents of violence affecting civilians."

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

According to the office of UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui, 16 children were injured by gunfire during the fighting between the M23 and Congolese armed forces. Another 500 unaccompanied minors, who were receiving assistance in Goma before the city's takeover, 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.

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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.

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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.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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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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