DRC: UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief calls for end to “immense suffering”

28 May 2013

28 May 2013, North Kivu, DRC: UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief, Kyung-wha Kang, speaks with a child at the Sotraki camp outside Goma, in eastern DRC. During her visit Ms Kang called on combatants in the region to find an end to "the horrors of this man-made emergency." Photo: OCHA
The UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Chief has visited eastern DRC, where fresh outbreaks of violence have triggered new waves of displacement.

The United Nation’s new Deputy Humanitarian Chief, Kyung-wha Kang, has called on government and rebel forces to end the “immense suffering” of civilians in North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ms Kang was speaking at the end of a visit to Goma, the capital of North Kivu. The visit – Ms Kang’s first as Deputy Humanitarian Chief – came just days after heavy fighting between the Congolese Army and the M23 rebel movement displaced thousands of people in and around the city.

“The latest fighting on the outskirts of Goma shows how fragile the situation is in North Kivu,” Ms. Kang said. “The killing of civilians by shelling last week is unacceptable and I call on all parties engaged in armed conflict to fully respect International Humanitarian Law.”

Ms Kang met with families living in the Sotraki camp outside Goma, where an estimated 3,000 people sought refuge in the wake of last week’s fighting. She also met with representatives of some of the agencies trying to provide them with support.

“The immense suffering of the people in North Kivu and other parts of the DRC where violence continues has gone on for too long. It is time to end the horrors of this man-made emergency,” she said.

The epicentre of a complex crisis

Ms Kang’s visit and statement echo the concerns shared by the Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, Moustapha Soumaré, in the immediate aftermath of last week’s violence.

“Civilians have been injured during military operations because military positions and military actions are taking place too close to where civilian populations are located,” he said.

“I call on all parties to take all measures necessary to avoid civilian casualties.”

North Kivu has been the epicentre of DRC’s complex crisis for nearly two decades. It is home to some 973,000 internally displaced people – more than one third of the 2.6 million displaced in DRC.

Despite being home to some of Africa’s wealthiest mineral deposits, the region’s economy is virtually non-existent. Schools are frequently used as military barracks or to house displaced families, and farming and other livelihood activities have been interrupted.

Providing relief and protection to civilians is a priority for the humanitarian community, but insecurity and poor infrastructure makes it challenging to reach affected communities.

Ms Kang arrived in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, on Monday (27 May) for a four day visit.

Before leaving for Goma, she met with Government officials, NGOs, and senior humanitarian officials. They discussed issues including the protection of civilians, a more enabling environment for humanitarian actors, and the continued and heightened need for large-scale humanitarian response.