UNHCR statistics show alarming rise in rape and violence against women in North Kivu

News Stories, 30 July 2013

© UNHCR/F.Noy
These displaced Congolese women eat together in the tent they share in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNHCR is concerned about growing violence against women.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 30 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency warned on Tuesday that recurrent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province is uprooting more civilians and exposing an increasing number of women, girls and men to rape.

Statistics gathered by UNHCR in North Kivu point to an alarming rise this year in acts of violence against women and girls in the province, particularly rape. "Our protection monitoring teams have registered 705 cases of sexual violence in the region since January, including 619 cases of rape," said a UNHCR spokesperson. "During the same period in 2012, our staff had registered 108 cases. The survivors of SGBV [sexual and gender-based violence] included 288 minors and 43 men."

The spokesperson said UNHCR was worried that the fighting between the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan rebel group, and the army as well as renewed fighting between the army and the rebel M23 movement near the North Kivu capital, Goma, over the past two weeks would increase the danger for women in the region, including those living in camps.

Most cases of sexual violence are committed by armed men. Out of the 705 cases of sexual violence reported to UNHCR staff since the beginning of the year, 434 were perpetrated by armed elements. Official UN figures give further evidence of the growing threat that women and girls face. They show that recorded cases of sexual violence in North Kivu soared from 4,689 cases in 2011 to 7,075 in 2012. Many more cases remain unreported.

UNHCR has been working closely with other humanitarian organizations and the authorities to strengthen the monitoring of sexual violence and the response. The agency has, for example, helped run courses for 96 police officers deployed in the camps and sites in Goma on how to prevent sexual violence and handle rape cases.

The refugee agency is also helping to create community centres and train focal points among the displaced population to enable them to identify sexual violence cases and refer the victims for health care and psycho-social support. UNHCR is also promoting the use of alternative fuel to firewood in a bid to reduce the exposure of women to sexual violence when they go out to look for wood. The current phase of this project will benefit 2,000 households in camps near Goma.

Meanwhile, the fighting around Goma has forced 6,000-7,000 people to flee their homes since July 14. The majority are women and children as well as young boys fleeing forced recruitment.

The newly displaced are staying in schools and churches in the northern part of Goma, some 10 kilometres from the frontline. Together with the International Organization for Migration and other partners, UNHCR is transferring the displaced to existing camps where they receive shelter and basic humanitarian aid.

In North Kivu's Kamango area, the fighting this month has displaced an estimated 14,000 civilians, who have sought shelter in the bush and in villages around Kamango, bringing to 40,000 the number of people internally displaced in the area.

UNHCR is also alarmed by reports of human rights violations in the Kamango area, including the murder of at least 15 civilians, abductions, forced labour, beatings and illegal taxation. A recent evaluation by UNHCR field staff found that displaced people are facing food shortages because they cannot go to the fields to collect their crops.

Access to water and health services is also extremely difficult after 80 per cent of the health centres in the area were looted. Medical staff in the area report many cases of diarrhoea and respiratory infections due to shortage of clean water and latrines. Humanitarian access is a challenge and recent reports state that the situation remains tense in the area.

A total of 967,000 people are displaced throughout North Kivu as a result of years of conflict.

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Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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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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