DRC: Recent fighting has caused “crisis within a crisis” – Humanitarian Coordinator

30 Nov 2012

IDP camp at Kanyarucinya north of Goma. Credit: IRIN/Nicholas Long
Tens of thousands on the move; access remains difficult.

Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC Mr. Moustapha Soumaré said today that there are serious concerns over the humanitarian needs of tens of thousands of people recently displaced by conflict around Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

“We were able to redirect our funding in the short term to avert a huge humanitarian disaster,” Mr. Soumaré told a media briefing in New York via video link from Kinshasa. “However, in the medium and long term, there will be a serious need, even if the situation stabilizes. People will need assistance to restart their lives, be able to cultivate their land, and repair schools and medical centres,” he added. He went on to thank partners who had contributed to the pooled fund which he said had helped to address immediate needs.

About 130,000 people who have fled their homes because of the violence are hosted in 12 spontaneous sites and schools in and around Goma. Mr. Soumaré said the recent fighting had caused a new crisis within an existing, long-term crisis. Many of those on the move had been displaced before, and were forced to flee again in the past 10 days. He added that people in many other parts of North Kivu and other provinces in the DRC were experiencing great distress caused by armed conflict, including South Kivu, Katanga and Province Orientale.  

Mr. Soumaré said there were serious problems reaching those on the move. “When the fighting comes from the north, they go south; if it comes from the south, they go north. Sometimes, you identify a site; by the time you start your intervention, you come back a few hours after, and they are not there any more,” he said. “That is also making this crisis much more difficult for humanitarians.”

Humanitarian organizations also faced logistical challenges because access to parts of North Kivu outside Goma and its immediate surroundings was difficult, he said. Nevertheless, progress was being made.

Humanitarian partners have negotiated with the M23 to make sure that trucks with humanitarian supplies can pass through Goma without delay, for example when supplies come in from Kenya and other countries. “We are now working to make sure that we can also fly in urgent supplies through the airport, including medical equipment and medicine and so on,” Mr. Soumare said. He added that it was important to try innovative methods like mobile clinics to reach people on the move in areas where medical centres had been looted or destroyed.

Essential humanitarian aid has been distributed in areas around Goma. Some 110,000 people have received essential non-food items and 81,000 have received food rations for three days. A second distribution round with weekly food rations is currently being prepared.

The DRC Humanitarian Coordinator warned that unless the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed, there is a great potential for further violence and displacement. The ongoing crisis in DRC has left 2.4 million internally displaced people, including 1.6 million in North and South Kivu provinces.